This Broadway girl has got a lot of tunes to sing" begins the second verse of the Elton John song, "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters," which is featured on Sherie Rene Scott's album "...Men I've Had." The words certainly suit the smalltown girl-turned- Broadway songstress who currently lends her honey-throated belt to the spoofy Off-Broadway stage adaptation of the infamous porn film, Debbie Does Dallas. The Broadway girl — who has been seen in The Who's Tommy, Grease, Rent and Aida — has, of late, become an Off-Broadway girl, following up her turn in Jason Robert Brown's The Last 5 Years with her current title role. Scott spoke with Playbill On-Line's Ernio Hernandez about Debbie, The Last 5 Years, her album and her next possible "project" with husband Kurt Deutsch (the man who puts the "K" in Sh-K-Boom Records).
Playbill On-Line: First, let me clear this up, is it Sherie Rene with the accent, have you dropped it?
Sherie Rene Scott: It's on, well I mean, I don't really care, on my birth certificate it's R-E-N-E with the accent, but I don't really care. It's just karma, instant karma for having made fun of people for using three names, and now I have to use three names, just because of union purposes. So whatever, R-E-N-E with the accent, without, doesn't matter.
PBOL: I read that you had sought out this role. Is that true?
SRS: Not really, I had read about it when it was at the Fringe Festival. I never saw it, but I wasn't available initially for the first reading because we were supposed to do a USO tour in December. When that was canceled, I did call my agent and say, "What's going on with that reading now that I'm available?" And then I stayed interested in it when Last 5 Years closed. I was just keeping up to date on whether or not they were still doing it, but I didn't pursue it. I was involved with the first staged reading and then not until when I was cast.
PBOL: So, you weren't involved with the workshops.
SRS: No, I was doingLast 5 Years. I was happy to do Last 5 Years and happy that [Debbie] was moving forward because I always thought it was an important idea and a fun idea and I thought it was something that should be done.
PBOL: What made you decide to do Debbie?
SRS: Oddly enough, I'm not a fan of all pornography, but they're turning all sorts of movies into stage productions and this one was actually one that was the most interesting to me. I was also only getting talked to for the theatre about revivals. I really wanted to do theatre this year. One of my goals is always trying to do things that are new and adventurous, which is always more difficult because it's much more time-consuming. But, I think it's very important that we try to find some way of supporting new projects in theatre. So that also helped my choice. PBOL: By the time you signed on, was the music set?
SRS: They brought in Tom Kitt as the musical director after I signed on because I think they realized that it was fun to have music in it. But once they had someone that had experience singing, that they could try to bring that out just a little bit more.
PBOL: It's a very fun show and yet it certainly deals with serious issues, like feminism and chauvinism...
SRS: I think so. I mean it's interesting that people come and say "Oh, it's just fun, it's just light entertainment" and other people go "Oh no, I was thinking about a lot of the things that were said in the days and weeks that followed and what it all means." I think people are having an amazing time. I've never been in a show where people laughed harder and longer and more spontaneously and are more and more surprised. So, that feels really good. And it feels good to be a part of something that, just like Last 5 Years, I believe in and I'm proud of. Just in a completely different way.
PBOL: Debbie is mostly dialogue with some singing, which is almost the exact opposite of your last project The Last 5 Years, which was mostly sung with some dialogue. Unfortunately, the show had a such limited run.
SRS: I think, and I had felt this at the time, as time went on, people would be real perplexed as to why it wasn't more supported by certain people that could have really helped it. Not from me, personally, I certainly didn't need to be in another long run, [Laughs] that wasn't important to me. But just for such a brilliant new project, unlike anything else. And what's been the testament to that, I think, and always felt would happen, is that the cast album has been so successful and has touched so many people around and just continues to grow just completely by word-of-mouth. People that were never able to see the production stop me on the street, just recognizing me from the photo on the cast album. Almost every single day that I'm walking around or someone comes to see Debbie, someone stops me or definitely someone will e-mail saying how important the piece is to them and how much they love it.
PBOL: The show was structured in a way that you were working backwards through the character who had undergone a failed marriage, so at the top of the show, you were at one of her lowest points emotionally. Was that difficult to pull off?
SRS: I think, honestly, it would have been much harder if I wasn't working with such an incredible team including Norbert [Leo Butz], my co-star, and Daisy Prince, the director who really made me understand the situation that I was going to be in a certain place at the very first note of the show and the audience wouldn't even know who I was. So, the idea was never to try to get them to care for me, like a lot of directors would have pushed someone to do at the very beginning. So, I was in really capable and sensitive hands. Even though I was in a very vulnerable place, in that I was a stranger to the audience at what would be the climax of another show, I never felt that I had to push or get anyone to care for me, that everyone trusted what was innately inside of me and inside of the music to do the job. But, it made me feel like if I could do that show, I can do anything. [Laughs.] Honestly.
PBOL: On the other hand, it must have been great to walk away from the performance because at the end of the show the character is in a happier place, while Norbert was on the other end.
SRS: It was strange because I would always want to talk after the show and I would have to wait a few minutes until he could have a conversation.
PBOL: In essence, the show was two solo singing shows, in that the two actors never really interacted, except in the one wedding scene in the middle where the two storylines chronologically cross.
SRS: Yes. I think it was beautiful, and I think the show couldn't have been structured any other way. I think it was just really brave and brilliant. And still, I always felt the people that I respected felt the connection between the two of us that was really strong. That it made sense for the characters to only cross in the middle and again I thought that was a very brave choice because it was never a choice of "What will people want?," "What will people expect?" Daisy Prince always said, "What does the piece ask for and need?" And I think she stayed very true to that.
PBOL: Your album "...Men I've Had" — released on newcomer label Sh-K-Boom Records — features songs from composers you've "had" the pleasure of working with: Pete Townshend (Tommy), Elton John (Aida), Randy Newman (Faust), Jonathan Larson (Rent) and the team of Kander and Ebb (Over and Over). How did you choose the tracklist?
SRS: That was a long process, it took a long time because it was a very specific experiment. It was at the beginning of the formation of the company and I wanted to do what felt comfortable to me, which was singing in character. And so, I created this persona of "Sherie Rene" and that helped. Then, created a more specific area of choices where it was the composers I had worked with. Otherwise, I don't think I could have ever made a decision. [Laughs.] I have trouble making decisions anyway, so I had to get specific. And then choosing the songs was really great because it was about what made sense for that character to sing and what made sense for like a story. If you listen to the album, what starts at the beginning in a very sexual place and grows to a more spiritual place by the end of the album is a kind of a journey I was interested in the character of "Sherie Rene" taking. And it's certainly something I can identify with as a person, too. So that was the goal of the album and I think we achieved it. I did that album while we were in tech [rehearsal] and running Aida in Chicago. And then we recorded it while we were in tech for Aida in New York. So, we recorded the album on dinner breaks and lunch breaks. And we did [Aida co-star] Adam [Pascal]'s at the same time, so Adam and I would run over to the recording studio from the Palace Theatre for a few hours and then run back and it was so much fun. I loved it.
PBOL: Can we expect another album soon, perhaps "...More Men I've Had?"
SRS: Yeah, I don't know. I wish there were more female composers so I could do a "...Women I've Had" album. [Laughs.] But that looks like it might take a while to have that many women to make an albums out of. [Laughs.] I am formulating something. I just feel that recording is something that, hopefully, if I take care of myself is something I can do for many many years. Theatre is something more immediate and I have to take the opportunities as they come and I want, with recording, to create what eventually I hope, will end up being a body of work I can turn into a theatrical piece or performance piece. So I have to choose songs that make sense with that. Also, I know so many great composers now, that I would love to do an album of material of new young composers. All of this is not, clearly, I'm not interested in any kind of big recording artist stardom. It's not a goal, it's more a goal of making the company and setting up a bridge between a new generation of Broadway performers and the new generation of Broadway composers to try to keep musicals alive in a modern way.
PBOL: Do you have a dream role or dream collaboration?
SRS: I would love, let's see, if like Ben Folds or Rufus Wainwright or Stephen Merritt [wrote for the stage], I would love to work with them on a musical. Oh God, I don't know. I'm not familiar enough with musical theatre, honestly, to know of a dream role that I would want. I think the dream role that I want maybe is being created right now. Obviously, any kind of thing that would really excite me might be a new project. I know it's out there, just probably being written as we speak.
PBOL: Any embarrassing moments you can recall from past productions or this one?
SRS: Are you kidding? It's every single night. [Laughs.] I think what's gotten me through so many years of theatre is my selective memory. [Laughs.] I don't remember the people that hurt my feelings or the horrible things that happen. Otherwise, I don't know if I'd have the balls to get out there on stage again. But, needless to say, this show is just every single night an opportunity for something haphazard and hilarious to happen. We have had trouble in certain scenes holding [back laughter], staying in focus...and I'm usually the worst at it. And I'm trying to be cheer captain and be the most professional, but needless to say, it's been very difficult. A lot of the most embarrassing things [in Debbie] involve, what can I say, imitations of male body parts — certain props and things. A lot of things are unmentionable embarrassing things that will have to stay behind the scenes. I think there's a few stories going around Broadway that I've been involved in [the] most embarrassing moments of just 'going up' on stage in monologues...and coming up with only profanities to get out of it.
PBOL: Well, it happens to the best of them.
SRS: Yes! Oh please!
PBOL: Anything on the horizon following Debbie?
SRS: No, I've got to figure that out. There are practical matters of having done two Off Broadway shows in one year, I have to think of making some money. [Laughs.] So there's going to be that dilemma that's going to come up soon and hopefully a way of doing that that I'm proud of. That's also the moral dilemma in Debbie, so I grapple with it every night. But also, I'm thinking, having done two Off-Broadway shows and being pretty tuckered out, I feel like I could definitely go a completely opposite direction and do [husband] Kurt [Deutsch]'s and my first production together that's not Sh-K-Boom Records [of which he's president], but more like a baby. I've been formulating that project in my mind and I never thought of doing that, so that's kind of exciting to be thinking along those lines.