This week's opening of the musical Everyday Rapture at the Unicorn Theatre marks the first time it has been staged anywhere outside New York City.
The show's about an actress named Sherie Rene Scott and her journey from Topeka to New York - and it happened to be co-written and starred the real actress of the same name on Broadway, who now hands the role over to another actor.
Growing up in Topeka, Kansas in a family with Mennonite influences, Broadway actress Sherie Rene Scott had no early exposure to theater but recalls that it was a musical household.
"My dad was a guitar player and had a great voice," Scott says, "And he sang lots of railroad songs and great old music. And my mom played piano and played hymns, which was what she was allowed to play growing up, so there was that element of music."
Then a revelation: at the age of seven, to save money on babysitters, her parents enrolled her in a children's theater company started by the more theatrically inclined doctors at the Menninger Clinic (at the time, it was based on Topeka; it's now in Houston).
"I'd never seen a play or anything," recalls Scott. "So what we would do is write about our own lives and then they would find songs and choose songs that fit into these stories. So that's how my theater experience started: as a creative experience, not as a passive 'I'm cast in a role' . You write and create then you put in music that you love with it."
Fact Into Fiction
Those lessons stuck and, in a similar vein, Scott and her writing partner Dick Scanlan created Everyday Rapture, which brought Scott two Tony nominations in 2010. Through the use of songs by artists ranging from The Band to Johnny Mercer, it traces what Scott calls the spiritual journey of an actress who shares her name, and some experiences, but isn't at all autobiographical.
"The best way I can describe it is I have no interest in repeating my life 8 times a week. That's the last thing I would want to do," Scott says. "But I was compelled to tell this story and fortunately my writing partner understood that something can be 100% true without being necessarily factual. Facts are overrated. Facts can get in the way of creativity and creation.
"So getting to the truth of the matter was more important than getting into the facts of my life. The character is named Sherie Rene Scott, she grows up in Kansas and comes to New York, and it's important to me that at the end of the show, no one would know more about me than that. There were very few things that were factually important to me to put into the piece but many things hit upon a true spiritual journey that many people go through, and getting to the truth of that journey was very important to me."
Though Scott was asked to tour the show or move it to Los Angeles, she was ready to move on. But she was steadfast that a theater in proximity to Kansas would get first dibs, and it opens this week at the Unicorn Theatre. Playing Sherie Rene Scott now is Katie Gilchrist, who grew up in Kansas City and spent some time in New York. Gilchrist says she's found places in the show where she and this character named Sherie Rene Scott do overlap.
"I would say I'm most like her in her observations of people and life that are kind of odd and quirky. I feel I share that with her," Gilchrist says. "I was also raised Irish Catholic, so I was trying to wrap my brain around how challenging it is to be raised to believe certain things and have your world view expand to see it's not everything you've been told when you were a kid. And learning to build your own world view."
Scott hopes that the universality of her themes speaks to audiences about their own personal journeys.
"The biggest dreams are possible. I come from Kansas, go to New York not knowing anyone, and stay in the Salvation Army home for women," Scott says. "Life leads you to places, and that's what the show is: the absurd beauty of life. Everyday Rapture. Don't wait for the rapture. Don't wait until you're somewhere else. There is rapture in every day. A beginning and an end. A lift off, a let down. It's beyond our wildest dreams. When we look at it, it's all so much more beautiful than we could have imagined."
Musical theater fans can also thank Sherie Rene Scott for Sh-K-Boom, the record label she and her husband founded to make sure original cast recordings are forever preserved.
Everyday Rapture, May 16 - June 10, 2012, Unicorn Theatre, 3828 Main Street, Kansas City, Mo. 816-531-PLAY (7529).