ON THE RECORD: Everyday Rapture and "Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli Live at the London Palladium"

On the Record   ON THE RECORD: Everyday Rapture and "Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli Live at the London Palladium"
We listen to Sherie Rene Scott's unconventional new musical Everyday Rapture and the first-time-on-CD release of the complete 1965 double-LP album featuring Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli.
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EVERYDAY RAPTURE [Ghostlight 8-2010]
"You will enjoy such-and-such so much more," you typically hear, "if you listen to the cast album first a couple of times." That's what I said, precisely, in the last On the Record column in reference to American Idiot. So I find it ironic to have the opposite view in reference to Sherie Rene Scott's Everyday Rapture.

Here's a show that I enjoyed very much last spring at Second Stage, and even more when it opened on the final day of Tony Award eligibility at the American Airlines. An unusual show, certainly, by Broadway musical standards; but in this particular season, "Broadway musical standards" ain't exactly what they used to be. Ms. Scott is giving an award-winning performance, by my standards — a performance in some ways comparable to that of Alice Ripley in Next to Normal — and this makes Everyday Rapture a show to see.

I didn't get around to listening to the original cast album until just now, and found it somewhat unsettling. Perhaps this does serve as a good introduction to the show, and one that will enhance the viewing experience. For me, though, the CD lacks the sparkle of what you get in the theatre. Perhaps this is because so much of what happens in Everyday Rapture, and Ms. Scott's performance itself, is visual. Listening to the songs, without the patter and the context and the visual aids that punctuate the show, I found deflating. Would it make me want to see the show? I don't think so.

Not that the CD is poor, or dull, or in any way objectionable. It is fine, incorporating 15 tracks plus two bonus songs. But what's magical onstage — and Everyday Rapture includes a fair amount of magic, both charismatic and store-bought — doesn't carry over to the CD. The Mr. Rogers (as in "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood") material, which contributes some of the nicest moments of the show, works just as well on the recording. "I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City," from Harry Nilsson, does too; but the highlights of Everyday Rapture are not in the songs. Take the stretch that begins with "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe" (with lyrics to fit), "Get Happy" and "You Made Me Love You." These are key to the evening's success; this is where we begin to glimpse the very special journey Ms. Scott will take us on. These three numbers, in the theatre, are interwoven with a half-dozen or so lengthy speeches; the final song has a video sequence, with a photo montage, which cleverly and at moments hysterically sends a message to the audience. On the Everyday Rapture CD we get — three songs. Scott's backup singers, The Mennonettes (Lindsay Mendez and Betsy Wolfe), are present on the CD, yes; but in the theatre they are a key enhancement, here they are just backup singers. And the Eamon Foley sequence of the show is not recordable, for reasons obvious to anyone who has seen his performance.

After writing to this very point, I stopped to take a look at the liner notes. Written by Ms. Scott and Dick Scanlan, her co-author for Everyday Rapture, they are every bit as magical as the show itself! Which is to say, the story they tell of how the onstage character "Sherie Rene" came to be is delightful, quirky and heartfelt. Just like Everyday Rapture the musical, and not especially like Everyday Rapture the CD.

And so I end my review of Everyday Rapture the CD by recommending that you try to catch Ms. Scott, live on stage (as they say), in Everyday Rapture at the American Airlines.

Those of you who have indeed seen Everyday Rapture know that the spirit of Judy inhabits the proceedings. (It's a long story, which Ms. Scott tells in her somewhat daffy matter, but it places Garland in Oz and Sherie in Kansas at the Menninger Clinic, with thanks and gratitude to her sensitive cousin Jerome.) Which makes it all the more fitting that "Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli Live at the London Palladium" shares column space with Scott live at the Roundabout. The Judy and Liza recording is, as stated, a live concert recording made during said engagement in November 1964. Minnelli was barely 18, soon to storm Broadway with her Tony Award-winning debut in Flora, the Red Menace; Garland was — shall we say — not in the best condition. So the recording has its ups and downs, vocally-speaking; but it gives us Judy as she was at the time, and Liza as well. And it makes for an exciting hour of listening, that's for sure. The two-LP album has been remastered and expanded with two additional songs: Judy's renditions of Styne, Comden & Green's "Just in Time" and "Once in a Lifetime." (That's what it says on the track listings, anyway, but the latter is actually the Newley & Bricusse song from Stop the World — I Want to Get Off.) A ten-song version was released on CD in 1993, but this is the first complete version of the LP to make it to CD. It is not the complete live concert, as fans might wish; but I expect that this is all that was available to DRG for commercial release. Complete or in-, it sure makes for interesting listening.

(Steven Suskin is author of the recently released updated and expanded Fourth Edition of "Show Tunes" as well as "The Sound of Broadway Music: A Book of Orchestrators and Orchestrations," "Second Act Trouble" and the "Opening Night on Broadway" books. He can be reached at Ssuskin@aol.com.)

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