Sunday, July 11, 2010

What Would Judy Do?

Judy, as in Garland, god rest her soul, could certainly appreciate Everyday Rapture, the semi-autobiographical story of leading actress Sheri Rene Scott. She is a devout fan of Garland and constantly asks herself “what would Judy do?” Everyday Rapture, a part of Roundabout Theatre Company’s 2010 season opened at the American Airlines Theatre with a limited engagement run on April 29, 2010 and played its final performance today.

I caught the evening show last night and I felt so grateful to have witnessed the incomparable Sherie Rene Scott completely in her element. She is known for her crystal clear belt and comedic chops in shows like Aida, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and The Little Mermaid, but who knew she could deliver such a multilayered performance? I had never seen Scott perform live and I must admit that I was skeptical. I was expecting a “Broadway belter” performance, you know the kind I’m talking about, where the singer has to do deep knee bends to get the top notes out and it looks like her face just might fall off? But there were no “defying gravity moments” here and that was quite rapturous in itself.

While Everyday Rapture is indeed a musical, it reads more like a play with music in that the book scenes tell Scott’s story and the songs add sparkle and theatricality. She is one of those very special performers who does not separate her dialogue from the music, but actually continues to act through the song. While she is a fabulous singer with impeccable control, I barely took notice of the vocal technique because her performance was so transcendent. This gal runs the gamut from light ballads on travel trunks and up-tempo numbers complete with magic tricks to Motown anthems with her back-up singers and torch songs, some even performed while lying on the floor.

While this is primarily a one-woman-show, Sherie Rene Scott is supported by two back-up singers, Lindsay Mendez and Betsy Wolfe, or as she refers to them, the Mennonettes. The harmonies created by these three women are out of this world, particularly on the final number Up the Ladder to the Roof. There is also a scene stealing performance by the 16-year old Eamon Foley who plays a crazed fan that uploads his own interpretation of Scott’s My Strongest Suit to youtube. This hilarious segment of the piece depicts Scott’s frustration as she attempts to reach out to this young fan while he refuses to believe the emails are really from her. Foley’s character really gets his idol riled up when he mentions Idina, but Scott quickly reminds the audience that this other beloved Broadway belter was in fact her replacement in AIDA. This delightfully catty comment is exactly what makes Sherie unique and electric, her quirky, and sometimes biting sense of humor.

The subject of the show is Scott’s half-Mennonite upbringing in Kansas and her road to New York City. Her idols growing up were Jesus and Judy Garland, enough said. She opens by stating that a wise man once told her to carry two pieces of paper in her pockets every day, one stating “I am a speck of dust” and one stating “the world was created for me.” She waffles between these two philosophies throughout the show as her Mennonite half taught her to feel insignificant but her other, more theatrical, half leads her to believe that she is special and has the potential to truly shine. In the end, she rips pieces of paper into tiny pieces, showering herself in confetti, as she ultimately concludes that there truly is magic in the world, and specifically in the theatre, if she can only find “it” within herself.

Ever since this piece was rumored to make the move from off-Broadway to Broadway, I have been intrigued by it, partly because I found the idea of an autobiographical show incredibly self- indulgent, and also because I wanted to know what all the fuss was about surrounding this “phenomenal” actress. So I had my doubts, and Sherie Rene Scott, a woman whose talent cannot by confined by two names, proved me wrong, and she did it in a big way. Not only was I floored by her talent, but I totally connected with her story. There is absolutely nothing self-serving about this piece and in fact, she is one of the most giving performers I have ever had the pleasure of seeing. Her story of a small town girl with a big dream and complete belief in herself resonated with me tremendously and based on the mood in the audience, I think she reached many others as well.

I found myself in tears by the final number, which was an up-tempo I must add! Maybe it was because of her character’s ultimate realization of the magic of the theatre, or maybe it was because I felt so honored to have been privy to this woman’s deeply personal story, but either way, the show struck a chord with me and pulled my emotions to the surface. I went into Everyday Rapture having never seen Sherie Rene Scott perform and I left the theatre as an eternal fan, and that is exactly what I told her when she signed my poster at the stage door.

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