The Importance of Voice: Everyday Rapture

I often get lost on YouTube. The more information I can take in before writing about a topic or working on a score, the better. Today, by chance, I wound up in a cycle that kept leading me to a promo reel for the short-lived Broadway musical Everyday Rapture. PosterThe Sherie Rene Scott starring, quasi-autobiographical jukebox musical has stuck with me for quite some time. It's not like I hadn't seen Sherie in other shows. I had previously seen her in Rent (replacement Maureen, very funny interpretation), Aida (the original Amneris, hilarious), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (just as good as John Lithgow), and The Little Mermaid (no comment). She has a great voice and does broad comedy in a very subtle way. It's a see it to believe it thing.

Yet Everyday Rapture is when I really noticed Sherie for the first time. Every word of dialogue, every note, every song, every move on stage played to what she does best. I guess that's the advantage of writing your own star vehicle. You get to control how it goes, for better or worse.

Everyday Rapture was not revolutionary theater. The sets were not mind-blowing, the costumes were minimal, and the lighting was adequate. Even the story being told was--broad strokes--similar to other rise to fame/success stories.

What gave the show its power was Sherie Rene Scott's voice. Not her singing voice, either. Her writing voice.

Scott collaborated with Daniel Scanlan to bring a highly fictionalized version of her story to life. The goal was to fabricate the little things and stay as true as possible to the big things. For example, it's hard to know for sure if some boys from her Mennonite church really did try to burn down a temple, but Scott gave quite a few interviews stating that most of the moments people thought were made up were actually the truth. Similarly, those interviews made me think that some of the more mundane x to y exposition was a device to get to the next nutty moment based in reality.

The result is a book that gave Scott laugh lines at every turn. She didn't need to oversell anything. Her naturally dry wit came through. The framing of the story and the fictionalized elements allowed her to create a caricature of herself that felt as real as the one person productions of actors like John Leguizamo or Chita Rivera. Everyone takes liberties when they stage their life story. The trick is to find the angle of truth.

SparkleScott found it in her religious background. She really was raised in a Mennonite church and taught things about the entertainment business that created a crisis. This little tidbit--who knows how formative it was on her actual experience?--became the driving conflict of the story. We know that Sherie Rene Scott succeeded as a Broadway performer. We don't know going into the show that faith was as big a struggle as cattle calls and dead end jobs.

Though Everyday Rapture did not have the greatest grosses, it was very well received. Critics gave it strong reviews, zeroing in on the strength of the book and Scott's presence onstage. Awards followed suit, climaxing with a surprise Best Book of a Musical nomination at the Tony Awards (in addition to the expected Best Actress nomination). Of course, if I had my way, it would have received a Best Musical nomination, as well, but I might be in the minority on that one.

For an artist, the takeaway from Everyday Rapture is to know your voice. Make bold choices but choose elements that go with the tone and style of the piece. If you find the right angle and stay honest to that approach, you'll produce something that people will remember.

An even greater lesson is the element of chance. Everyday Rapture wouldn't have played at all that season if Lips Together, Teeth Apart didn't get pulled after Megan Mullally dropped out. Scott's show was quick to mount and left a big impression. A show this tight only had a chance to be recognized when a big shiny production failed to come through at the last minute. The only way to plan for that kind of chance is to create a good product and be prepared to move with it.

I always wonder where YouTube will lead me on these random voyages. Today was a happy accident. Now I get to share a show I'll always remember fondly for the impact it's had on me as a writer.

Thoughts? Love to hear them.

Of Note: Certified Copy Blu-ray: Criterion Collection

The Link Rally: 24 May 2012