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A CurtainUp Review
Everyday Rapture

Original Review at Second Stage
A Look at Every Day Rapture on Broadway

Sherie Rene Scott
Sherie Rene Scott in Every Day Rapture
The very personable and personalized musical that CurtainUp editor, critic and publisher Elyse Sommer characterized as "off-beat" when it opened last season at the Second Stage has returned to fill a suddenly available slot in the current Roundabout Theater season. The show seems to have almost miraculously found its way to the American Airlines Theater, a considerably larger venue than was the smaller Off-Broadway venue. I'm not using the word miraculously lightly as this show with songs and stories that Sherie Rene Scott put together with Dick Scanlan and director Michael Mayer is largely about miracles, the kind that can only happen to someone who believes in them.

If there is a miracle to be witnessed by a non-believer, it is how this small-scaled and emphatically slight show fills up the larger stage. It is not done with scenery, although there are blinking lights aplenty, but with the sheer almost blinding effervescence and energy of its star. Though I think a cabaret setting would better suit the show, the tall, shapely (looking great in jeans) blonde and bubbly Scott and her two back-up singers — Lindsay Mendez and Betsy Wolfe— are also committed to engaging every far corner of the theater. Although both Mendez and Wolf supply some fine vocal support in the style of Bette Midler's Harlettes, they also appear to have been picked for their non-threatening star qualities. Thanks (or no thanks) to modern electronics, the five piece on-stage band sounds like a big band.

In an awkwardly inserted, but initially funny, segment, a fourth performer, Eamon Foley, plays a gay hyperkinetic idolizing loner who strikes up an ultimately disingenuous and destructive relationship/connection with Scott via YouTube. In its attempt to show Scott's empathy for those suffering alienation from society, it also shows how good intentions so often backfire on those professionally unprepared for dealing with psychologically and pathologically impaired souls. Now there's a potential play waiting in the wings.

Scott makes no bones about the need to escape and free herself from the restrictions and constrictions of the Mennonite community in which she was raised (read more about this and how the songs are threaded through the show in Elyse's review) and she still appears, despite her acknowledged spiritual growth, to be haunted by a deeply embedded religiosity. This makes its way both perceptively and poignantly into the show. Scott gives the pervasive Jesus factor in her life its due and maybe even its comeuppance with visual references that are as satirical as they are undoubtedly sincere. This could be considered tasteless and off-putting to some. Others will see Scott's journey as encouraging, if indeed, inspired by a higher power.

Musical Numbers: (Ghostlight Records has released a cast recording which is available on iTunes, on the Ghostlight/Sh-K-Boom website (www.sh-k-boom.com) and in stores in early June. The list that follows includes two numbers included as bonsus tracks): 1. The Other Side of This Life (Overture), 2. Got a Thing on My Mind, 3. Elevation, 4. On the Atchison Topeka and the Santa Fe, 5 Get Happy, 6. You Made Me Love You, 7. Mr. Rogers Medley (It's Such a Good Feeling, Everybody's Fancy, I Like to Be Told), 8. It's You I Like, 9. I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City, 10. Life Line, 11. The Weight, 12. Rainbow Sleeves, 13. Why, 14. Won't You Be My Neighbor?, 15. Up the Ladder to the Roof

Edtior's Note: With Everyday Rapture's re-opening at the Roundabout, director Michael Mayer now has two shows on Broadway, the other the new rock opera American Idiot. To read Simmon's review of that go here.

Production Notes: Everyday Rapture Written by Sherie Rene Scott and Dick Scanlan
Directed by Michael Mayer
Choreographed by Michele Lynch
Musical Director: Carmel Dean
Cast: Sherie Rene Scott; also Eamon Foley, Lindsay Mendez and Betsy Wolfe
Sets: Christine Jones
Costumes: Tom Broecker
Musical Coordinator: Michael Keller
Musical supervision, orchestrations/ arrangements by Tom Kitt
Running Time: 90 minutes without intermission American Airlines Theatre 227 W. 42nd St. (212) 719-1300
From 4/19/10; opening 4/29/10; closing 7/11/10
Tuesday - Saturday @8pm. Tickets $66.50 - $116.50
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. . .rapture with a small "r," a single precious moment. Here. Now. . .you'll find it. And then you'll lose it. And then you'll find it again. And not for one day. . .but any day. All Day. Every Day. .— Sherie, on bridging the gap between rapture as defined by her "mostly Mennonite" past and her "mostly Manhattan" future.
This charming, off-beat show has the look and feel of a concert yet it definitely qualifies as a book musical. That book — a semi-fictionalized musical memoir— is a collaboration between the show's star, Sherie Rene Scott, and Dick Scanlan. Also on board is Spring Awakening's director Michael Mayer to insure that the show has the look, feel and sound of a full-fledged and fresh musical. (Scanlan and Mayer previously worked together on Thoroughly Modern Millie)

Though Ms. Scott has been quoted as saying that this is a show with four performers, it is basically a solo showcase for her beauty and likeability, very personal style of song interpretation and delivery, not to mention her gifts as a story teller. Her two almost constant sidekicks, Lindsay Mendez and Betsy Wolfe, are excellent, though their "Mennonites" are not very different from other groups of backup singers. The other performer listed in the program, Eamon Foley, is a genuinely surprising and enjoyable surprise guest star. Though he appears only briefly he adds mightily to the overall energy and fun. No matter how you classify Everyday Rapture, Ms. Scott, her colleagues, the 5-piece onstage band and the pacey and colorful staging all give this musical journey a rich, full-bodied flavor.

The autobiographical aspects of the plot— a journey of self-enabling selfdiscovery— clearly connect the character named Sherie Rene Scott and the sultry-voiced attractive Sherie Rene Scott who narrates her story. It's a bit like the Philip Roth character in novelist Roth's Operation Shylock.

The real Sherie has appeared in enough Broadway shows (most recently in The Little Mermaid; also Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Aida) to make her tagging herself as "a semi-star" a case of modest self-mockery. Like her fictional alter-ego, the "real" Scott was brought up in a Menonite household in Topeka, Kansas, a city which apparently boasts as many churches as Colorado City, the setting of the recent This Beautiful City (review).

Over the course of the ninety intermissionless minutes, you'll learn the difference between being Amish and Mennonite (Mennonite is "Amsh-light") and that the custom of rumspringa, which means "running around," is based on the belief that if young church members are given a year off from being Mennonite they will return to the fold. For the show's Sherie rumspringa lasted 27 years of trying reconcile the religious Kansas upbringing with the needs of the "semi-star" Broadway baby— not an easy to achieve goal considering that the Mennoties believe that being prepared for the Rapture means solo show-biz singing is a sure path to eternal hellfire, and also the young Sherie's exposure to the scary intonations from a local fire and brimstone religious leader named Pastor Fred. Fortunately, Sherie was also exposed to a more open-minded view of life by TV's Mr. Rogers.

There's a thematic bit of business about two slips of paper handed to Sherie by a Hasidic Jew ("who could have been a Buddhist") that freed her from being a good little Mennonite "speck of dust" and allow herself to approach the world as "a place created for me." Though corny as Kansas, this does work as the leitmotif for Sherie's journey towards making the concept of the Rapture accommodate her everyday spiritual and worldly needs.

As for the music, this has enough sources to fall into a new genre: a mixed jukebox musical. Singers and songwriters referenced include David Byrne, Sharon Jones, the Dap-Kings and, of course, the Johnny Mercer/Harry Warren "Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe." Since "Atchison. . ." was made famous by Judy Garland and Judy was an icon for the young Sherie, this also paves the way for two more Judy songs via one of several projections: "Get Happy." and "You Made Me Love You," the latter amusingly illustrated with a series of cheeky images of Jesus. All the music is artfully arranged by Next to Normal composer Tom Kitt and enlivened by Michelle Lynch's choreography.

A very fresh YouTube interlude with Eamon Foley is introduced by a bit of fourth wall breaking that is a hilarious high point that you have to see for yourself to fully appreciate. Ultimately, this sort of stage memoir, even though disguised as fiction, does tend to be a bit narcisstic as Scott herself admits though she came to realize " I can be narcissistic, and still be nice." The lovely to look at and listen to and thoroughly endearing narcissist at the center of The Everyday Rapture is not just nice but a star -- not a semi-star but a true hyphen-less, capitalized Star.

Elyse Sommer reviewed Everyday Rapture premiered at Second Stage 307 West 43rd Street on May 1st. It ran from 4/07/09; opening 5/03/09; closing 5/17/09 and extended to 6/14/09. Production details were the same as listed in the above updated review on Broadway.
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