Theatre Review by Matthew Murray - April 29, 2010
Everyday Rapture by Dick Scanlan and Sherie Rene Scott. Directed by Michael Mayer. Choreography by Michele Lynch. Set design by Christine Jones. Costume design by Tom Broecker. Lighting design by Kevin Adams. Sound design by Ashley Hanson, Kurt Eric Fischer, Brian Ronan. Projection design by Darrel Maloney. Orchestrations/ arrangements by Tom Kitt. Cast: Sherie Rene Scott, with Eamon Foley, Lindsay Mendez, Betsy Wolfe.
Please, whatever you do, don’t confuse the two. Yes, they both look like exactly the same lithe, statuesque blonde, and sing with the same yellow clarion of a voice that pulls you to attention with its piercing range and detail. Otherwise, the star Scott and the unknown Sherie are united only within the confines of this cheerily explosive semi-autobiographical work, which Scott wrote with Dick Scanlan, and which cunningly proves how divided personalities can sometimes lead to the most complete and fascinating people out there.
Though there are bold lines drawn between the women in some places, for the most part you can’t tell where one ends and the other begins, let alone which of the events they describe actually happened and which didn’t. It seems likely that Sherie did spend her Rumspringa — the period of time in late adolescence when Mennonites explore the “real” world and must decide whether to devote their lives to it or their church — finding herself in New York, and concluding upon returning that the Amish-light life wasn’t really for her; and that Scott learned of the importance of luck from watching her cat eat a four-leaf clover and of humility from an obsessed young fan who painstakingly mimicked her in a YouTube video.
Everything else, from interactions with Westboro Baptist Church’s Fred Phelps and TV’s Fred (aka Mr.) Rogers, sexual awakening at the fast-moving hands of a Manhattan street magician, and the mental institution where singing went from an enjoyable activity to a necessary one (relax, she was entertaining the patients), appears up for grabs. Regardless, it doesn’t matter: Scott, Scanlan, and director Michael Mayer have fashioned both women’s tales of joy, woe, and everything in between into a colorful, moving, and start-to-finish-fun evening that ranks as one of the most satisfying musicals Broadway has seen this season.
This is despite possessing a songstack consisting of only previously known and recorded songs, many of which are smartly chosen, orchestrated and arranged (by Tom Kitt), and musical directed (by Marco Paguia) and capture both the simmer of the Midwest and the high-speed sizzle of New York, but perilously few of which come from the theatre (“My Strongest Suit,” from Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida, being the key, scene-filling exception). But the prevailing wit, cleverness, and humanity are enough to carry the night as the show charts the linked evolutions of the Kansas girl who believes “I am a speck of dust” and the acclaimed Tony nominee who lives by the mantra “The world was created for me.”
Those statements, by the way, play crucial roles themselves. Given to Scott (or is it Sherie?) by a religious figure of some unguessable denomination who insisted she write them on pieces of paper and always keep them in separate pockets, they anchor the women’s biographies and provide the starting points for the paths of existence that constantly diverge and intersect en route to the same destination. Their climax — one example, of several in the show, that may classify as literal rather than theatrical magic — parallels that of the women who won’t really understand anything until they take those lessons to heart.
As she and Sherie battle for control, and both the script and production oscillate violently between self-serving stage bio and show-off concert (complete with cheekily, parodically self-indulgent set pieces by Christine Jones, costumes by Tom Broecker, and lights by Kevin Adams), you understand the parallel perils of both fame and anonymity. This is sold most completely in one of the final scenes, when sensitive Sherie and business-minded Scott join forces against their adolescent Internet impersonator (a dynamic Eamon Foley), but it’s the guiding force that helps Everyday Rapture be more than the sum of its deceptively complex parts.
If the show or the production (which slipped into Roundabout’s schedule as a last-minute replacement for a canceled revival of Lips Together, Teeth Apart) have been tweaked since premiering a year ago at Second Stage, I couldn’t detect them. The music selections, the physical design, and the atmosphere of bourbon-spiked optimism are all the same, suggesting that the creators didn’t want to mess too much with a successful formula. Smart move.
The only noticeable change is in Scott herself. She’s scaled up her performance to the appropriate Broadway dimensions, but loses in the quieter moments none of the personal intimacy that made the Off-Broadway version something that felt like a one-on-one treasure. And when she lets go, whether with a song, dance (Michele Lynch did the fizzy choreography), or a joke told in her arresting around-the-back deadpan, she fills the house from stage to rafters with the kind of electric charisma so rare today that it tends to earn its owners Tony Awards when it appears.
There’d be no shame in that happening here, by the way. In every moment, Scott convinces you that she doesn’t belong anywhere else and that this is the ultimate expression of the woman she’s always wanted and needed to be. To what degree this includes or excludes Sherie is anyone’s guess, but it’s ultimately irrelevant. By the time the show is through, whoever that is onstage is both believably minuscule and in expansive control of the world around her. Like the rapture you’ll feel experiencing that fusion and its Everyday Rapture wrapper, the messenger and the message have gloriously become one and the same.