nytheatre.com review by Loren Noveck
May 4, 2010
Everyday Rapture is a little jewel-box of a musical (or, really, of a cabaret show; the score is entirely composed of new arrangements of a grab bag of songs coming from sources ranging from U2 to the collected works of Mr. Rogers—put to surprisingly brilliant use—to a few other Broadway musicals to Judy Garland standards to David Byrne) that packs more punch than your average bloated Broadway blockbuster with the simplest of elements: two adorable backup singers, one randomly wonderful cameo player, a five-piece band, and at the center of it all, the delightful Sherie Rene Scott, who both co-wrote the piece and performs as its central character, herself. (More or less.)
It's funny, it's heartfelt, it's sweet, and everyone involved looks to be having an enormous amount of fun doing it—the cast and the band, yes, but even the witty little touches in Christine Jones's set, bedecked with Christmas lights, speak of fun. And the performers seem to be getting so much genuine joy out of singing that I (despite not being able to carry a tune and being hideously plagued by stage fright) kind of wished I could get up there with them and sing, too.
The plot, such as it is, is simple and clearly inspired by Scott's life, imbued with both a respect for and a gentle mockery of her own youthful naivete: small-town Kansas girl breaks out of a conservative religious upbringing (Mennonites and a handful of pretty scary Baptists) by virtue of a rumspringa lasting 27 years. (Rumspringa is an Amish/Mennonite rite of passage allowing teenagers to live outside the community's strict mores for a period of time before being baptized into the church as an adult.) Scott leaves Kansas, moves to New York at first for a summer and finally permanently, ultimately becomes a moderately successful actress (a "semi-semi-semi-star"—as she says, several Broadway second leads were created for her) and never goes home.
Once Scott arrives in New York, the story takes a big jump over the slog of becoming a star, even a semi-semi-semi one; there's no backstage gossip or inside theatre-people jokes. Instead, there's the ruefully hilarious tale of Scott stumbling over a fan lip-synching to one of her Broadway recordings on YouTube (the delightfully over-the-top Eamon Foley), trying to reach out to him, and being rebuffed. Semi-fame only gets you so far these days.
But it's not really the story that's the delight here: it's the vividly observed, touchingly recalled moments along the way, framed and loosely themed by a piece of wisdom received from a saintly rabbi (well, probably a Jew, possibly a Muslim, and maybe, sort of, a Buddhist—but definitely some sort of sage): always keep two pieces of paper in your pocket, one that says "I am a speck of dust" and the other reading "The world was created for me." The delight is the places Scott goes on a voyage of self-discovery, a journey that allows her to find her truest soul and self in song, accompanied by the "Mennonettes," her backup singing duo. It's in Scott's oscillation between adolescent idol-worshipping of Jesus and Judy Garland, accompanied by a Jesus video montage scored to "You Made Me Love You" and a childhood performance of "Get Happy" at the local mental hospital. It's in the musical surprises: a delicate, dreamy "On the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe" or the impassioned closing number of "Up the Ladder to the Roof." It's in her self-discovery and learning to assert identity through the teachings of Mr. Rogers. It's in the sadness of the funeral of her very favorite cousin, the one who supported her dreams and got shunned from the community for being gay. It's in the wide-eyed enthusiasm of her first trip to New York, with its frequent visits to Tickitus (her pronunciation of TKTS) and her romance with an aspiring magician.
And above all, what makes the piece special is not just that it's filled with love for music and theatre—though it is—but that it's filled with the understanding that for so many of us who still persist in making and going to live performance, there is genuine spiritual joy, a kind of, well, everyday rapture just in being a part of it. It was a complete pleasure to spend an hour and a half with Sherie Rene Scott and company being reminded of that.