She looks like a Sherie Rene Scott, she sounds like a Sherie Rene Scott, she even says she is Sherie Rene Scott — but it would be a calculated mistake to take the blonde diva now dominating Second Stage's Everyday Rapture for the real, unalloyed McCoy.
As musical autobiographies go, Scott swears with a wink that hers is "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth — only better." There's an asterisk lurking in those last two words — an invisible protective gloss that keeps the real Scott safe from scrutiny, while telling the relative truth of a Topeka Mennonite making it as a Manhattan chanteuse.
Scott is a performer who prefers a role to hide behind. "Singing outside a character is not enjoyable for me," she says. "I like to have something to do, a story to tell with a song. I came to performing from a place where acting and singing were separate things. I never understood the two could come together till I was cast in Tommy." Her next goal — to do a play with music — was realized via a revival of Landscape of the Body, with five existing John Guare songs reorchestrated and rethought by Michael Friedman, who "lifted the music to another level," winning her an Obie and a Lortel Award.
Everyday Rapture represents her latest musical evolution. Michael Mayer, who directed it, and Dick Scanlan, who wrote it with her, first encountered Scott a decade ago when she auditioned (unsuccessfully) for their Thoroughly Modern Millie. A year later she and Scanlan struck up a writing partnership with liner notes for her CD and continued it with special material and song lead-ins for a steady barrage of benefits. The CD, "Sherie Rene . . . Men I've Had," according to Scanlan, was a collection of songs by composers she had worked with, "and Sherie had the fanciful idea of doing the liner notes as a diary about her relationships with these guys — maybe it was artistic, maybe it was sexual. We took that idea and extrapolated it into creating a character named Sherie Rene Scott who loves to sing, is hungry for attention and has a totally different ego structure. Without getting into what's true and what's not, there are aspects of the story that actually happened to her and aspects that didn't. It's like how Philip Roth created this alter ego named Nathan Zuckerman. Her alter ego has the same name — but, like him, aspects of what her alter ego's journey is are the same as hers and aspects are different. Some things happened to me. Over the years, we would trot this character out for benefits and write a monologue for the song so Sherie would understand what she's doing."
The notion that they might have a show here gradually took hold, but the rub was finding the time and space to write it. Finally, in the fall of '06, both their schedules freed up, and the space fell naturally into place. As owners and co-founders of the Drama Desk Award–winning Sh-K-Boom/Ghostlight Records, Scott and her husband, Kurt Deutsch, had rehearsal studios, and that's where she and Scanlan locked themselves into a room for several intense months of concentrated creativity.
"One-person shows are kind of abhorrent to me," says Scott, the one-person show-off, without a trace of irony, "but Dick said, 'What if we can do your dream of making a play with music?' I said, 'Okay, that's fine — as long as I don't reveal anything about myself and no one really knows anything about me when they leave the theatre.'"
Easier dictated than done. "When we got into it, we soon learned for something to be effective it has to be personal, so we personalized it for me and the audience."
The result is what Scanlan likes to call "a one-person show with four people in it." The other three, besides Scott, are a younger actor who has an extended YouTube sequence and two women who serve as backup singers — "The Mennonettes" — and share other scenes with her.
"The real Sherie Rene and the character we created are in natural conflict," he says, "so we created an evening of two Sheries using just one person — a woman at odds with herself. Part of her naturally really does want to be out there in the limelight, and part of her wants to hide. The specific circumstance of Sherie's ambivalence about being seen is she's half-Mennonite. When you come from that background, any sort of seeking of attention is considered unholy. Then, when you talk about somebody blessed with the gifts that Sherie has, you're talking major conflict."
The story of her life runs a good 20 songs long, an eclectic grab bag of tunes made famous by Judy Garland, David Byrne, George Harrison, Richard Rodgers, U2, The Dap Kings, The Beatles — all conducted by Next to Normal composer Tom Kitt.