Talkin' BroadwayV.J.

Interview with Sherie Rene Scott
by Jonathan Frank

Photo: Megan Maloy
Sherie Rene Scott certainly has played an intriguing variety of women throughout her career: a wisecracking, know-it-all maid in Kander and Ebb's Over and Over, a lesbian performance artist in Rent, one of Satan's bad girls in Randy Newman's Faust, and even a princess (in every sense of the word) in Aida. Currently, Sherie is gearing up to embody a completely different stage creature, the titular character in the stage adaptation of the porn classic, Debbie Does Dallas. I caught up with Sherie after a grueling day of rehearsals to discover how the heck one turns porn into art, as well as other aspects of her life.

Jonathan: Welcome to Talkin' Broadway, Sherie, and thank you for giving up some of your practically non-existent free time.

Sherie: My pleasure!

JF: So, how are rehearsals going?

SRS: They are going great! Debbie Does Dallas is unlike anything I've ever done before ... or anybody else has done for that matter! There's really nothing to gauge it by; the show's not strictly a musical or a play. And we have been doing three hours of cheer practice a day. But it's amazing! It's the kind of a show where we go from being really serious and focused to breaking into laughing fits; we can't control ourselves! And it's the only show I've been in where the prop list includes candles that look like penises and dildos! (Laughs)

JF: When you left Kansas for the 'Big City,' did you ever dream you would end up in a stage adaptation of a porno movie?

SRS: I always thought that if I did anything in the porn genre I would be paid a lot more (laughs). Since it's 'real theater,' however, there's no money ... and the fact that there is no money legitimizes it and makes it authentic American theater! No, when I was a little girl in Kansas I wasn't too familiar with porn. It's a new concept for me since coming to the east coast (laughs).

JF: You said that Debbie isn't exactly a musical. Hopefully we do get to hear you sing in the show?

Photo: Megan Maloy
SRS: Yes. There are character driven songs in the show, which can best be described as a blend of National Lampoon's comedy albums of the '70s and South Park. Sh-k-boom is producing the cast album of Debbie Does Dallas, which will include some of the scenes as well as the songs, so it will provide a complete listening experience. I think we're going to add a bonus track for the cast album as well, what we call our 'credits music,' which will be a Celine Dion "My Heart Will Go On" type of song to be played when people file out of the theater.

JF: I know you start previews on October 8th. What date does the show officially open?

SRS: October 29th. It's in great shape already. It's funny as hell! However, in addition to it being funny and sexy, there is a tremendous level of skill that has gone into the show; the transitions from when we're making fun and goofing around versus moments when we make people think ... the writing is simply incredible. Making the transition from talking about masturbating with candles to making a feminine statement is quite a stretch but we do make it happen! (laughs)

JF: Were you involved in any prior productions or workshops of Debbie Does Dallas?

SRS: I did the first reading in December of 2001. There was a [New York] Fringe festival production of the show that was comprised of Susan L. Schwartz, the woman who came up with the show, and her friends. It was a totally different show, since they were older than our cast and I don't know if they were professional actors. They didn't do any dancing or singing; they just used the script from the original movie to make a show.

Erica Schmidt, our director, has taken the script word for word, added scenes based on her deep understanding of the piece (laughs) and, with Andrew Sherman, has written songs to explain, or shall we say 'expose,' the characters' inner thoughts. A lot of times, there will be songs or dances depicting certain types of sexual acts while sexual scenes are occurring. I told you: it's a very fascinating show.

JF: I can't wait to see it.

You have a movie that is due to be released soon as well, Marci X ...

SRS: Yes. It was supposed to be released in the fall of 2001, but we had to reshoot the last ten minutes due to September 11th. Paul Rudnick, who wrote Jeffrey and In and Out, wrote the script and he is known for making broad jokes. In the scene, one of the jokes was a take off on the Hindenburg disaster ... which after September 11th just didn't work. So we had to reshoot it and since Damon Wayans and Lisa Kudrow are in it, we had to work around their TV schedules. The film is due to be out around Christmas of this year.

I play Lisa's best friend. The movie is about a group of very rich Upper East Side young ladies who become involved with the gangster rap world. It's a film about racism and interracial love, and it's amazing how people still have a problem with that. At the first screening, there were a couple of riots because people were upset over seeing black girls going with white girls. And that is the whole point of the movie! It's really funny and also stars Jane Krakoswski and Veanne Cox.

Jane came by rehearsal today to bring me lunch: we all became really good friends doing the movie. I've been very fortunate in that the women I've worked with, both in Marci X and in Debbie Does Dallas, have been hysterical. Some of the girls in Debbie should be in Saturday Night Live! Anyway, Jane said that Debbie was the funniest thing she's ever seen ... hopefully she wasn't bullshitting me (laughs).

Photo: Joan Marcus
JF: I came to New York right after The Last 5 Years closed, which really disappointed me, as I love the cast album.

SRS: I'm sorry you missed it. I'm very proud of my work in it.

JF: Was that your first Off-Broadway show?

SRS: Yes. I had done Off-Off-Broadway shows, ones in which I didn't get paid. I was part of a theater company that was run in someone's apartment; we only did plays that took place in living rooms (laughs). We would only invite a select audience of 50 people and we actually got written up in the New York Times Magazine. But The Last 5 Years was my first official Off-Broadway show. Between that and Debbie, I'm calling this my Off-Broadway year.

JF: You are kind of doing things backwards, since you started off doing three shows on Broadway pretty much back to back ...

SRS: Actually, I did four ... Tommy, Grease, Rent and Aida.

JF: Ah ... your bio didn't mention Grease ...

SRS: I know ... I don't put it in my bio because ... I don't want to seem like I'm a musical theater whore (laughs), although I am and very proud of it! But it wasn't the favorite nine months of my life.

JF: But it paid the bills ...

SRS: Exactly! I was very, very, very lucky to get it since they took me out of the chorus. I took over for Megan Mullally [as Marty] so it was great to fill her shoes and get a taste of her star dust.

It was a fun experience, actually. The choreographer for Debbie, Jen Cody, was in Grease, as was her husband Hunter Foster, so it was a great group of people ... it just wasn't my favorite piece of work. But I did get to meet Rosie O'Donnell through the experience, and she has been an incredible supporter of mine. She had me on her show for The Last 5 Years when nobody else was interested in Off-Broadway

JF: I would love to have seen Debbie Does Dallas on the Rosie O'Donnell Show.

SRS: Are you kidding??? It would take us a week to put together a number that would be suitable for television. I realized that today - the show has no nudity and very little profanity, but I have no idea how we're going to publicize it. You have to see it from beginning to end to appreciate it and grasp its deep meaning.

I think it's really important for people to realize how hard hit Off-Broadway has been from recent economics and from September 11th. People really got together to support Broadway and its shows got subsidized, which is great, but nobody has done that for Off-Broadway. I was working downtown all winter and into the spring and saw the affect 9/11 has had on the businesses and restaurants down there; it's been especially hard to get people to attend theaters down there. So whatever we can do to get people to support the downtown area ...

JF: Especially since Off-Broadway is home to the more challenging musicals, if not plays ...

SRS: Yeah. I don't know how anybody has the balls to put on a Broadway musical nowadays. Thank God we do have big money out there, like Disney, the Shuberts, and film companies, to produce shows. If it weren't for them, nobody would be putting up shows on Broadway; nobody has that kind of money. Even doing shows Off-Broadway has become incredibly expensive. Producers really have to love what they are doing, because it's such a crapshoot. So God bless them!

JF: It's funny you should mention Disney. When I was doing research on Debbie Does Dallas I came across a quote from an article concerning the outcry Disney received from attempting a stage version of Beauty and the Beast. The quote was, "Considering the amount of virulent press Disney got over the effort, you'd think they were staging a musical version of Debbie Does Dallas, or an all-sung Top Gun."

SRS: It's true; they get so much crap and nobody ever stands up for them. They get blamed for the 'Disney-fication' of 42nd Street when they only own one building, and I challenge anybody to think of another company that would have done such an incredible job restoring the New Amsterdam Theater. I've worked for them and I have friends who have worked for them for years ... I think a lot of people say bad things about Disney because they wish they were working for them. (laughs)

JF: You did put in quite a number of years with the Mouse House. You were involved in the Atlanta tryout of Aida, back when it was called Elaborate Lives, as well as the pre-Broadway tour and subsequent Broadway run of Aida.

SRS: Yes. I ended up working for Disney with Aida for about five years, from the first reading to Broadway. If they have confidence in a performer, they are very loyal, and that loyalty and belief in me has made me a better performer. I know they have done that with others; they say, "These are our people and we're going to stand by them. If they aren't perfect, we will cultivate them." I can't think of any other Broadway producer who would do that; with most you have to deliver immediately or get out. But Disney really stands by their people.

JF: How was your experience doing the Kander and Ebb musical Over And Over at the Signature Theatre in Virginia?

SRS: It was unlike anything else! I was on my way to Mexico for a much needed vacation after doing Aida in Atlanta. On the way to the airport, I got a call that said, "Kander and Ebb are sitting in a room in Midtown begging you to come and audition for Over and Over. They'll send a car, they'll do anything you need to get you there." And I said, "NO!" I think I actually told my manager to "fuck off!" I had read the script and the music the night before and I knew that I was perfect for the part; that nobody would do the part better. So I did not want to go in because I knew that I would get it and I needed a vacation so badly!

I finally gave in and they were the most brilliant gentlemen in the world. I went to the airport after the audition and they called to tell me I got the part; I started crying hysterically because I was so tired! I went to St. Louis for one day, borrowed clothes from my father-in-law, got on a plane, got to Washington, D.C., the day after Christmas, walked in, and was handed the script while I'm wearing my father-in-law's jeans and sweatshirts ... the only clothes I had with me were bikinis, t-shirts and sundresses for Mexico!

I was replacing Bebe Neuwirth, who had dropped out of the show, in the part of Sabina. The day I got my script, the rest of the cast was already in costumes and in the first day of tech! I was supposed to have six days to rehearse, but I think they stretched it to eight days. I had to learn all of the dances that Bebe had done because they didn't have time to re-choreograph them. The only change they made was to cut some of the lifts because I'm not as svelte as she is.

I think the show is incredibly gorgeous and is so pertinent to where we are today, politically, and environmentally. But they were told the show would never work, as it deals with topics like over-population. But look at Urinetown! It needs some work on the book, but it would be a fantastic Off-Broadway show. People keep thinking the goal for every show should be to be Broadway, but the truth is there are some shows that would do better Off-Broadway.

The producers of Debbie Does Dallas are smart enough to realize that it is the epitome of the perfect Off-Broadway show, so there would be no point in even thinking about moving it. I think it's going to be a huge success and I'm happy for the show and those involved ... and I hope I'll still be alive when the show opens (laughs). I could drop dead from a heart attack from doing all the cheers any day!

JF: I heard you were doing a concept album of Dracula with Terrence Mann and Christiane Noll ...

SRS: I don't know how that rumor ever got started! I talked to Frank Wildhorn on the phone and he sent me a track to listen to, but I got a job and wasn't able to do it.

JF: Well, that answers that question and squelches yet another Internet rumor.

I'm sure you are dying to take a soak and soothe those aching muscles ...

SRS: Oh yeah! When you see the show you'll understand my pain!

JF: I can imagine, with all the cheerleading you have to do. Having never seen the movie ...

SRS: Oh, there's no cheerleading in the movie ... please! That would have been a waste of their time and of film! They had other talents. (laughs)

JF: Well, best of fates on the show.

SRS: Thanks!

For more information or to purchase tickets for Debbie Does Dallas, visit Telecharge.com link here. Sherie's CD, Men I've Had is available at Amazon.com and Sh-K-Boom.com.

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