Off Broadway Reviews
The lead character of this four-person one-woman show, which has been breezily directed by Michael Mayer, is named Sherie Rene Scott, but reportedly bears only a passing similarity to the actress playing her. (Of the anecdotes that constitute the show, Scott recently said in an interview, "Only some are factual, but all are true.") Regardless, Scott's off-handed charisma and overly blithe a way with a song or monologue are suavely matched to Sherie's quest for emotional, professional, and sexual love in a world frequently fueled by hate.
Sherie, who describes herself as a half-Mennonite ("Amish-light... light"), was born and bred in Topeka, Kansas, and grew up in the shadow of the Westboro Baptist Church which, as led (then and now) by Fred Phelps, preached little but intolerance from the pulpit. Sherie's close relationship with a gay cousin and her innate desire for singing (spurred by a love of Judy Garland) ostracized her from Phelps's flock, but she didn't mind much. She learned inclusion and self-respect from a different Fred (aka Mr. Rogers), who gave her everything that Phelps couldn't.
This included the confidence to take a trip to New York, where she became enamored of magic (and a magician who made her virginity disappear), the stage, and the city itself. She planned to move back there, did, fell in love and got married and found semi-stardom, which in turn led to the perils of borderline-psychotic fans and the dangers of raising a son in a world that often weighs down spirituality with too many easy answers.
It's a lot of ground to cover in 90 minutes, especially as rounded out with songs popularized by David Byrne, George Harrison, and Roberta Flack (all unified by Tom Kitt's energetic orchestrations and Carmel Dean's musical direction), and with the typical detours that a single look at Scott's sly face (or her resume) would lead you to expect. Two of the most outrageous involve her singing "Get Happy" to the patients at a mental health facility and "You Made Me Love You" to a rapidly shifting slideshow of (not always iconographic) images of Jesus. Everything is thematically cohesive, if sometimes distractingly random in construction.
But if you're afraid that the experience will be shallow and impersonal, don't be. Scott's flash-over-feeling approach, which has prevented her from being completely successful in portraying characters like Amneris (in Elton John and Tim Rice's Aida), Cathy in The Last Five Years, Christine in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and Ursula in The Little Mermaid, is a perfect fit for the self-scattering Sherie, and that helps justify even the show's deepest incongruities. The character is a deflating rubber raft adrift on a roiling stream of consciousness, in need of exactly the above-room-temperature moistness the actress naturally emanates.
Scott embodies both of the qualities that bookend Sherie's worldview, as imparted to her by a (probably Jewish) rabbi who suggested she write them down and always keep them in her pockets: "I am a speck of dust" and "The world was created for me." The interplay between the hyperinflated ego of the up-and-coming-Broadway star and the humble introvert who never wants more than she's earned gives some surprising depth to a script that often tends toward the familiar and slight - not least because you're never entirely sure whether Sherie or Scott is embodying the aspect you're seeing at any given moment.
All you can tell for sure is that the two women are impressive singers and crack storytellers, capable of weaving fictional narrative and personal reflection into a bare-bones concert format without sacrificing the verities of either form of presentation. (Christine Jones's galactic disco set, which blends vivid pastels with stylized constellations beneath Kevin Adams's deceptively intimate lighting plot, is just right as a background for both.) Lindsey Mendez and Betsy Wolfe provide excellent support as the Mennonettes, Sherie's now-and-then backup singers.
Eamon Foley deserves special mention: He's a scream in his single scene, in which he plays a young Scott admirer (identified only by his e-mail address, email@example.com) with a heavy Aida fixation. Lip-syncing to Sherie's (or is it Scott's?) live rendition of her signature number from that show, "My Strongest Suit," with campy gestures and eye-bulging expressions, he captures all the glory (and more than a little of the ugliness) of the way musical theatre can affect or infect its devotees.
It's Sherie's story in microcosm, yes. But it's also an expansion of its basic tenet that because you can never be sure how your words and actions will affect others, you'd better consider them carefully; Sherie, Scott, and Scanlan make this clear, sweet, and funny time and time again. firstname.lastname@example.org's performance is a tribute to his idol, but if you've never considered how Scott could possibly deserve that status, Everyday Rapture may well make you a believer too.