The far-from-friendly Fred Phelps family usually finds itself outside the theater, ranting on the sidewalk about some wacky message from God.
Well, welcome inside the Unicorn Theatre, oh my Topeka brothers—it’s probably not the one your Scripture had in mind, but the EVERYDAY RAPTURE (now thru June 10) has arrived and you’re in it.
When I saw this smart, hilarious yet touching show on Broadway, I thought the Unicorn would be perfect for EVERYDAY RAPTURE. After all—how many cutting edge theaters can you find within 100 miles of the Kansas state capital? Well, praise the Lord and pass the intermission—Cynthia Levin and company procured the rights to the first-ever production of this little gem outside NYC. Now you can see it and have fun with the Phelps’ kin yourself.
The real-life story of Broadway star Sherrie Rene Scott—she who lit up the original productions of Disney’s AIDA, DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS, LAST FIVE YEARS and even THE LITTLE MERMAID—EVERYDAY RAPTURE follows Ms Scott from her Topeka roots to the Great White Way. Raised in a Mennonite home, she knew the Phelps kids growing up. Her poignant recherché du temps perdue about those days gone by is as hilarious as it is heartfelt.
In the arms and voice of Ms Scott, Jesus never had it so good.
Sherie and co-writer Richard (THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE) Scanlan have crafted a witty, ascerbic play around the actress’s rise to fame . Self-effacing to a fault, Ms Scott (well-played by Katie Gilchrist) is never completely comfortable in her celebrity skin. When she goes after an on-line stalker in Act 2, it’s downright touching—trying to help a young You Tube drama queen find himself. As the harsh reality of modern life dashes Scott’s altruism, we all feel her little pain.
Ms Gilchrist sings the hell out of this score; her rock and roll lead singer roots mesh nicely with her stage smarts to make this show work without the author herself onstage—no mean feat, I promise you. Back-up singers Chioma Anyanwu and Christina Burton have just the right sass for back-up singers with attitude. And, in the role of Broadwayislove09@earthlink.net (a URL on the cast page–another KC theater first), Bryan LaFave gets his awkward star turn.
Jerry Jay Cranford supplies the crisp direction, adding clever touches I don’t remember from the Broadway gig. The tight band under the able direction of Jeremy Watson handles a wide range of songs with aplomb (though I would have liked a little more rock in numbers like “The Weight” and the terrific closer “Up the Ladder to the Roof”). Tech credits are fine, though I don’t think Katie’s outfit was particularly flattering.
But those are small quibbles for a very hip evening (or matinee) at the theater. And there’s a point to the undertaking—I’ll let you figure it out yourself (go see the show),
but maybe that Rapture the Phelps’ and their evangelical buddies are holding over us isn’t as far off as they seem to think.