DIVA TALK: Chatting with Mermaid's Sherie Rene Scott Plus News of Chenoweth and Errico

Diva Talk   DIVA TALK: Chatting with Mermaid's Sherie Rene Scott Plus News of Chenoweth and Errico News, views and reviews about the multi-talented women of the musical theatre and the concert/cabaret stage.
Sherie Rene Scott
Sherie Rene Scott

SHERIE RENE SCOTT
I have to admit that after watching a new musical I often think of various other casting choices: "Wouldn't Kristin Chenoweth have gotten more laughs in that part?" or "I would love to hear Betty Buckley sing that score" or "Ellen Greene would have really ripped your heart out in that role." But after enjoying Sherie Rene Scott's performance as the sinister Ursula in the new Disney musical The Little Mermaid, I couldn't think of anyone who would have been better suited to the role; Scott, I dare say, is flawless. Her dead-on comic timing and her fabulous, rangy and powerful belt are the perfect mix for the role in the new musical at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, Scott's sixth Broadway outing following performances in The Who's Tommy, Grease, Rent, Aida and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. In the midst of performing eight shows a week, Scott is also at work on a "one-woman show" entitled You May Now Worship Me, which she will premiere March 31 at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre as a benefit for the Phyllis Newman Women's Health Initiative. Conceived and written by Scott and Tony nominee Dick Scanlan, the benefit evening will feature direction by Tony winner Michael Mayer and musical direction by Tom Kitt. Earlier this week I had the pleasure of chatting with the humorous Scott prior to a matinee of Mermaid; that brief interview follows.

Question: Tell me about the title of the one-woman show, You May Now Worship Me. How did that come about?
Sherie Rene Scott: That's how I was feeling. [Laughs.] I was walking down the street and realizing how distasteful and repellent it is to me to do a one-person show. I was thinking, "What is it all about?" Then I came up with the title You May Now Worship Me. Michael Mayer loved it also because it's a play on these shows that people do. I don't know what it is — we're still creating it, and I hate to categorize it, but it really is a slightly theatrical kind of performance piece. The character does go on a journey that is a spiritual journey that involves the idea of worship. Hopefully in people's minds, I know in mine, it has double meaning, but we'll see what other people think.

Question: When you say "character," are you playing someone or are you playing yourself?
Scott: Yes. [Laughs.] I'm playing someone, and I'm myself. I guess that's the best way to put it. It's something that Dick [Scanlan] and I have been writing and coming up with for a while. Because I'm doing it, I'm sure someone else could talk about it better. I can talk about what it's like to create it and to perform it, but I can't really say what the perception of it is.

Question: The show is being presented in lieu of the annual Nothing Like a Dame benefit. How did that come about to do Worship Me as a benefit for the Phyllis Newman Women's Health Initiative?
Scott: Dick and I did a presentation last May to find a director and producers. [Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS executive director] Tom Viola loved it and [asked], "Would you please do the piece for the Women's Health Initiative?" I'm a woman, and the piece has something to do with women, and he thought it would be a really exciting event, and it would be a way of getting my piece out there in a more open way. Now that Michael Mayer is attached, it gives us an opportunity to get it up on its feet with him directing, and also do it for an organization that myself and our record label, Sh-K-Boom/Ghostlight Records, has always been highly supportive of.

Question: Do you see it as a piece that you would like to do elsewhere?
Scott: Yeah, [although] all I'm thinking about is this night and wanting to make it as great as it can be for this night. I think it will be different than anything Broadway Cares has ever done for a benefit. I think that's good. As far as it goes beyond that, I've loved writing it and working on it — something I've always wanted to do is be more involved on the creative end of things. This is kind of a first foray into that, and if there's interest in it beyond this night, then that's great. Question: What are some of the songs that you'll be performing?
Scott: I should say that the songs are kind of secondary to the writing of the piece. Every song that's chosen really has to do with [the storytelling]. I have to say it's not like, "I like this song, therefore I want to sing it." It's really about the songs that help move the story along and help tell the story. We open with a Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings song. There's U2, there are Judy Garland songs, there's Harry Nilsson, there's George Harrison, David Burns, a cross-section of things, maybe some familiar favorites.

Question: What's it been like working with Michael Mayer as a director?
Scott: It's been really fantastic. I'm doing the eight shows a week [of Little Mermaid] and rehearsing and rewriting. It's really helped to have someone who is so enthusiastic about the piece, and it's helped the piece to have someone who is so brilliant and highly respected associated with it. He's just invaluable. We're having a blast. My only regret is that I have to conserve my energy a lot to be able to give my usual 45 percent. [Laughs.] So that's kind of keeping myself on the number two button, not amping myself up to 11. It's kind of difficult, but other than that it's been a godsend.

Question: I know you did a one-woman show at the Zipper Factory. How do you find performing on a stage by yourself versus being in a musical or play? What is that experience like for you?
Scott: That was kind of a workshop of this piece. That was exciting and fun. I don't like it a lot — I don't like being onstage alone. I barely like being onstage at all. [Laughs.] So there's a lot of inner-difficulties I have regarding that. I have no other inner-difficulties other than that. [Laughs.] There is obviously some sort of need I have to do it, otherwise I wouldn't do it. There's some sort of need I have to express myself creatively. Sometimes it's really annoying and I wish it weren't there, but it's a great balance to doing eight shows a week and being with a cast that I really adore, and then going and working on this project that I obviously have to do for some reason. I think we're incorporating ways of making it not feel so lonely for me up there. Tyler Maynard said, "Well, if you're feeling lonely, you could just drink before you go onstage!" [Laughs.] I'm trying not to resort to that. I'm trying to find ways of being a creative person and also being comfortable with expressing that. I know that sounds really weird, but that's the truth.

Sherie Rene Scott in Little Mermaid
photo by Joan Marcus

Question: Getting to Little Mermaid: In preparing for the show and your role, did you watch the film much? How did you go about creating the character?
Scott: I did not watch the film. Alan Menken sang it for me, and that gave me a lot of information.… I made a kind of montage for how I saw Ursula. I felt that she sees herself as this screen siren, like Gloria Swanson or Bette Davis or Marlene Dietrich. The opposite of most villains or villainesses, she does not loathe herself. She actually completely loves herself. She can't get enough of herself. She thinks she's the sexiest, most amazing thing. In terms of creating the character — with that screen-siren thing, she thinks she's Dame Judi Dench. When she turns it on, she really turns it on and becomes your favorite Auntie Mame with a leather whip. I think there's that side underneath her that's having fun watching all of these people and incorporating all of these people that Ursula feels she is — Rosalind Russell and Mae West and Judi Dench in the Scottish play or Divine, Iggy Pop. There are all of these people in her, and it's kind of the sexiest character I've ever played. . . . I really sunk my teeth into it and just went with Doug Wright, who was adapting it, and who we wanted her to be for this incarnation. The stage is a hard place to hide, so we wanted to make her as real and as vibrant as possible for what this creation was. Question: Tell me about working with director Francesca Zambello.
Scott: It's great to have somebody that has so much experience creating new work. It's hard to even find people in musical theatre that have done 30 new musicals. She has done over 30 new operas, let alone all of the other operas that she's created. She really understands the grandness, and she understands the work involved. She wants to be a part of creating new work that is for the public. She's very big on that: to not be elitist and to create work that is going to bring people into the theatre — that will get people's interest sparked in the theatre from a young age, and she realizes the value of that and that that's invaluable to our future in the theatre. Her passion about that makes you understand why she's doing it and why we're all here and who we're here for. And then telling the story, I think she has a lot of heart, and I think our story — even more so than the film from what I remember; I haven't seen it since I was in my twenties — has so much heart. Also it's important to me and [Zambello] and Doug Wright that the ending be rectified from the film — that Ariel make a strong stance and that it be a powerful woman with another powerful woman and a standoff where Ariel really has to make a choice and make a tough decision about what kind of woman she wants to be, what kind of person she wants to be. I love that we're sending that message out there every night.

Question: Do you have a favorite moment in the show for Ursula? Is there something that you look forward to each night?
Scott: The whole piece. I haven't missed a show. I love the onstage, and I love offstage when I get to see everybody here and laugh with them. I love my Ariel [Sierra Boggess], my pretty, pretty princess. She is so perfect. I don't think people realize how wonderful she is. She's just so talented and so lovely and so funny offstage, as is everyone in the cast. We've got a really talented cast. I look forward to that everyday, honestly.

Question: How long does it take you to get into costume and makeup? What's that process like?
Scott: Not bad at all. This company is so good about making things functional. I would get here half an hour before half-hour anyway. There's always so much that goes on in the theatre everyday. Even though it's the same show, there are so many variables that you never think about. Right now I start my makeup at half-hour before half-hour, and they're done in 40 minutes with wig and makeup, and then I get suited up at five 'til. My costume has its own little chamber because it can't fit up any stairs. My costume doesn't live in my dressing room. I go down and get dressed right offstage. It's kind of dreamy. I'm going to want to do that in every show now — wear my robe offstage and then drop trou and go on. [Laughs.]

Question: I think the last time we spoke, your son Elijah was just a few months old. How old is he now?
Scott: He'll be four in May.

Question: How has it been combining motherhood and working the show?
Scott: I wish every working mom would have the support that I have. I have space for him to come in the dressing room, and I have a husband that is incredibly involved and loving. Every working mom should have this kind of support. It's been great. I do see why there's not many working moms on Broadway. [Laughs.] It's really difficult — there's so many things I have to think about. Like today, being sick, I want to read him stories, but I have to think, "I have two shows, and I've got to watch my voice." Just little things like that. But kids are so cool, and they're so much smarter and more aware than a lot of people give them credit for. He gets it. He gets that mommy goes to work and pretends, and wants to be with him every other second when she's not at work. We have a really good thing going on in our family, and I'm very appreciative for it.

Question: How involved are you at this point with the record company, with Sh-K-Boom and Ghostlight?
Scott: I don't look at the artwork, but I'm involved in terms of as much as I can going to see new pieces. Right now it's a little hard because I'm doing two shows. But after the 31st, we have some things for me lined up . . . I have the ideas, and [my husband] Kurt [Deutsch] takes them and makes them into actual reality, or has better ideas and runs everything. Kurt really is brilliant and [has the] incredible ability to be working on many things at once, many projects at the same time. We have a lot of albums coming out this year and a lot of projects that we're involved in.

Question: Do you think you'll record You May Now Worship Me?
Scott: I don't know. I have some ideas for some albums I would like to do, but we'll see what happens. I don't have big dreams in terms of recording. I have dreams for other people. That's why I started the label with Kurt. I'm not interested so much in developing projects for myself. I love writing, and I love writing with Dick Scanlan, but in terms of recording, I like thinking of ideas for other people and all my talented friends. We at Sh-K-Boom like to think of projects and develop things for other people in the community, too. So my stuff actually kind of comes in last. [Laughs.] [The Little Mermaid plays the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, 205 West 46th Street; tickets are available by calling (212) 307-4747. For more information visit www.disneyonbroadway.com. Presented by Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, tickets for You May Now Worship Me — March 31 at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre, 230 West 49th Street — are available by calling (212) 840-0770, ext. 268 or by visiting www.BroadwayCares.org.]

Kristin Chenoweth
photo by Aubrey Reuben

DIVA TIDBITS
Tony Award winner Kristin Chenoweth will lend her voice to an evening to benefit Alveolar Capillary Displaysia (ACD) in April. Entitled Kristin Chenoweth, This One's Personal: A Concert to Stop ACD, the fundraiser will be held April 12 at the Helen Mills Event Space in Manhattan. Show time at the 140-seat venue is 8 PM. The evening is being produced by NiCole Robinson ("The West Wing," "All My Children") and her husband Craig Snyder, who lost their seven-week-old son Lincoln to ACD this past summer. Actress Robinson told me earlier this week, "Kristin Chenoweth is one of my best friends. We worked together on 'The West Wing,' and she has vowed to sing until enough money is raised to pay for the science that will isolate this gene and end ACD so that no other baby has to die in the unspeakable way her little friend Lincoln did. [Robinson and Snyder] have created the 3 Angels Fund for ACD Research, and we will have our first benefit this April 12 with all proceeds going directly to fund science." Helen Mills Event Space is located in Manhattan at 137 West 26th Street. For more information or to purchase tickets to the benefit click here. Following her sold-out debut performance at Feinstein's at Loews Regency in February, Spring Awakening's Lea Michele will return to the intimate cabaret in April. Michele, who will be part of the all-star Les Misérables in Concert this summer at the Hollywood Bowl, will again offer her cabaret act, Once Upon a Dream, April 7. Feinstein's at Loews Regency is located in Manhattan at 540 Park Avenue at 61st Street. For reservations call (212) 339-4095. Visit feinsteinsatloewsregency.com for more information.

The fourth annual Flopz n' Cutz concert will be presented at Joe's Pub April 6 at 9:30 PM. Produced and directed by Jamie McGonnigal with musical direction by Michael Lavine, the evening will boast the talents of Landon Beard (Altar Boyz), Jennifer Cody (The Pajama Game, Seussical), Max von Essen (Les Miserables, Dance of the Vampires), Liz McCartney (Mamma Mia!, Taboo), Lea Michele (Spring Awakening), Julia Murney (Wicked, Lennon), Anthony Rapp (Rent, The Little Prince), Marty Thomas (Xanadu, Wicked), Wayne Wilcox (Coram Boy, "Rent" film) and Jennifer Hope Wills (Wonderful Town, Woman in White). Flopz n' Cuts 4, according to press notes, aims to "acquaint theatre enthusiasts with shows and songs that, while not quite successful in their original incarnations, still have merits that can be showcased in a concert setting." Joe's Pub is located within the Public Theater at 425 Lafayette Street. Tickets, priced at $20, are available by calling (212) 967-7555 or by visiting www.joespub.com.

Broadway singer-actress Melissa Errico will play Joe's Pub April 23 and 24 at 7:30 PM. Errico's new show will celebrate the release of her latest solo recording, "Lullabies and Wildflowers," which is scheduled for an April 29 release on the Velour/Universal Records label. The Tony-nominated actress will be backed by Rob Mathes on piano/guitar, Ben Wittman on drums/percussion, Tim Lefebrve on bass and Berndt Shoenhart on guitar. Cabaretgoers can expect to hear songs by Mike Errico, Chucho Valdez, Judy Collins, the Gershwins, Michel Legrand, Burton Lane, Sammy Cahn, The Beatles and Tom Petty as well as traditional folk songs. Errico is also scheduled to perform on "The Martha Stewart Show" May 9 at 10 AM ET. There is a $30 cover charge and a two-drink minimum; for reservations call (212) 967-7555 or visit www.joespub.com.

Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching! E-mail questions or comments to agans@playbill.com.