“Everyday Rapture” is a curiosity — a fictionalized autobiography of the actress who co-wrote it and performed it in all of its New York incarnations.
The Unicorn Theatre earns a feather in its cap for being the first regional theater to stage this piece with an actress other than Sherie Rene Scott, who earned Tony nominations for the script and her performance in the Broadway version. The show, written by Scott and Dick Scanlan, presents the unique story of an outsider from Topeka, raised in the Mennonite faith, who follows a dream to New York and forges a career as a Broadway actress.
Her experiences are by turns comic and poignant as she weighs the intolerance of certain conservative religious traditions against a more-or-less secular pursuit of spiritual grace.
Katie Gilchrist, who stepped into the role on short notice after another actress had to withdraw because of health reasons, performs with the poise and confidence we’ve come to expect of her, but the amount of material she had to commit to memory in only a few weeks is amazing. The show, directed by Jerry Jay Cranford, shimmers with polish and comes across without a trace of panic. If anything needs improvement, it’s the emotional/spiritual arc that Scott experiences as she gradually reconciles her upbringing with her career.
Success of failure in the theater is often determined by intangibles, and the first act on opening night Saturday was one of those curious examples of a performance that never quite connected with the audience, even though everyone on stage was doing everything right. The viewers responded to the music and the bursts of humor, but there was a curious distance between performers and viewers. The actors and musicians closed the gap a bit in Act 2, but the show still felt like it was missing a spark.
The music is an interesting, sometimes amusing grab bag of pre-existing tunes, often bent to the dramatic needs of the show. Here you find the music of U2, Robbie Robertson, Harry Warren/Johnny Mercer and Mister Rogers happily co-existing.
Gilchrist’s vocals are earthy and evocative throughout and she gets impeccable assistance from the Mennonettes — Chioma Anyanwu and Christina Burton — and a five-piece band led by music director Jeremy Watson.
A major section of the show involves Scott’s interaction via email with a teenage fan (Bryan LaFave) who likes to post videos of him lip-syncing to Scott’s recordings. He refuses to believe the person contacting him is the real Sherie Rene Scott, and the relationship becomes increasingly intense and hostile. LaFave, seen only on a large video screen, delivers an inspired, hilarious performance.
Of the design elements, Georgianna Londre Buchanan’s costumes are most impressive. She dreams up a wild succession of outfits for the Mennonettes and is aided by Gary Campbell’s amusing props. The result is a series of rich visual jokes.