“Everyday Rapture” at the Unicorn Theatre

The Unicorn Theatre just finished a run of Everyday Rapture, a (mostly) one-woman show that (semi) documents the journey from Bible belt to Broadway.

Sherie Rene Scott is the creator (co-written with Dick Scanlan) and star of the original show, a cabaret-style, Broadway-infused show that got her a Tony Award nomination. Here, it’s been reworked as a stand-alone, spiritually-explorative musical. While the main character is Scott, in this rendition she is a character, not the real person.

Katie Gilchrist played Scott. She stepped in at the last minute to do the show, learning a full script and about 15 musical numbers in about two weeks. Watching the play, you would never know it.

The girl, my friends, performed.

While some of the bits and shtick felt a little flat with awkward transitions, whenever the show turned contemplative, whenever the character was asked to be vulnerable, that was when Gilchrist brought down the house. Even the night I saw it, in which a few ladies got the “church-giggles,” her performance persevered with gratifying emotional connection.

My husband was in the band and I followed the show’s progress with more than a little interest. According to family lore, Scott babysat him and his sister, having grown up down the street, before she headed off for the far-less-greener pastures of Manhattan. She also took violin lessons with his mother. So when Scott came to see the show and then out for drinks afterwards with the cast, my husband snapped a picture of her “air-violining.” It’s a small world.

I went to see it with some of his family and during intermission it was interesting to hear real Topekans dissect the local factoids that weave through the script, since some of it was adjusted for thematic effect. Your typical Broadway audience member isn’t going to have infinite knowledge of the Menninger Clinic or necessarily have first-hand experience with the likes of the nefarious Phelps.

I was gratified to hear that at least one story – my favorite story – was true…or at least truer. In the second act, Scott talks about her toddler son finding a four-leaf clover on the first try, which her obese cat then eats, and the implications that the cat now has her son’s good luck, the luck that Scott never felt she had accessed. Not only a beautiful and complicated moment, but it was visual satisfying, too, as Gilchrist throttled an imaginary cat trying to get the clover back.

The play was also a testament to the Unicorn Theatre’s slogan of “Bold New Plays” and Cynthia Levin’s perseverance, eye for extraordinary, and willingness to take on unproven projects. It was a saga to get the piece presentable (since it wasn’t a complete package with any of the rights to the song selections and other legalities tied up neatly), or intended for anyone other than Scott to perform. And though the play had a few flaws, the Unicorn put together a piece that stands beyond the personality of one person.

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