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Sherie Rene Scott’s undeniable star power

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“Hello?” said the voice.

“Hello, Sherie Rene Scott?”

“Yes, hello!”

Our coverage of the 2012 Adelaide Cabaret Festival is now in full swing and David Allen chats with Broadway icon Sherie Rene Scott about her upcoming show down under. 

Sherie Rene Scott

Sherie Rene Scott

I first encountered the voice of Sherie Rene Scott in 2005. A music theatre adaptation of an early 90’s comedy movie called Dirty Rotten Scoundrelshad just opened on Broadway and naturally I pounced on the cast recording like a ravenous werewolf on a merchant ivory actress. Track number eight was the leading lady’s first song entitled ‘Here I Am’.

My room was suddenly filled with this incredible voice. It was rich, pure, lilting – and really unlike anything I’d ever heard on a musical cast album in recent years. This was no ordinary chanteuse. This was a leading lady with incredible musical skill and a commanding presence – even on a record!

I finished the album, and subsequently bought every CD she had ever sung on.

Sherie Rene has been with me ever since. Through Aida, Jason Robert Brown’s cult hit The Last Five Years, The Little Mermaid, Everyday Rapture and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown – she has remained an actress of unrelenting fascination to me.

Imagine my astonishment to hear her voice over my iPhone as I paced up and down Egan Street outside Fringe Café (name-drop) in Newtown. And it was so distinctly her voice – that inimitable tone – that I couldn’t help but crack the biggest grin.

“Hello?” said the voice.

“Hello, Sherie Rene Scott?”

“Yes, hello!”

“This is David Allen, I write for AussieTheatre.com – thank you so much for your time. It’s such a pleasure to get to talk to you!”

“No, no! It’s absolutely my pleasure.”

Every syllable is such a study of this tone I’m a little taken aback. It’s a syndrome I am commonly subject to. You become so used to a voice being of a stereo system – a person being of YouTube and, in part, of another universe – that in the (oft-times) unlikely circumstance you find yourself addressed by that voice and that person your brain is left sprinting to catch up!

I’m calling Sherie Rene to talk about her upcoming Australian debut at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival in late June. It’s a surreal experience that I am thrilled to repeat after my lovely conversation with fellow Broadway star Eden Espinosa some days before.

“So where are you in the world right now?” I ask.

“Well it’s about seven o’clock in the evening. I’m in the bedroom of my apartment of 66th Street in Manhattan. The streets are clear. We’ve had Obama in town today doing The View and so it’s very clear and quiet out.”

I tell her its 10am in Sydney and it’s a flawless Autumnal day, very crisp and bright.

“Oh! I am so looking forward to that!” she says instantly! “We’re heading into summer here and we’ve had some really incredible days.”

But this stage I have lost all sense of proportion beyond the idyll that Sherie Rene Scott’s voice is coming out of my iPhone and I instantly promise her the weather will be perfect! Given this last Summer gone, it’s a little like saying “Oh I’ve known the secret to alchemy for years!” so I hastily move on to a new topic.

I ask if she’s spoken to any of her colleagues about the upcoming festival at Adelaide.

"I’m expecting Australia to be kind of like Jamaica, chilled out but with less weed!"

“Well no actually. I didn’t know anyone who had performed there. I know that some wonderful acts have been, but I’ve never been to Australia so I really don’t know what to expect. This is really like a great big adventure for me.” She laughs, “I’m expecting Australia to be kind of like Jamaica, chilled out but with less weed!”

“As for Adelaide, I’m a huge Beatles-phile. So I know of Adelaide simply because it’s the place where the whole town basically turned out to see the Beatles when they played there in 1964.”

I didn’t know that! To me Adelaide is a city that hosts a cabaret festival and saw the debut of the original Australian production of Evita.

But I checked it out. On June 12, 1964, approximately 350,000 people (about a third of South Australia’s population then!) lined the streets of Adelaide to greet the touring Beatles.

Sherie Rene Scott knows more about Adelaide than I do!

“Beyond that I’m really looking forward to visiting the wine country obviously. That’s one thing other people have told me. I have to get to the Barossa Valley.”

I’m a huge fan of a Barossa red, so I agree whole-heartedly. Local colour established – and Sherie Rene is brilliant to chat with! – I turn to the cabaret.

“Are you excited for the festival?” I ask. “You know you can go and see any show there you want right? Do you have your eye on anything?”

There’s a pause and a gasp. “I did not know that! I didn’t know that at all. I’ve been focussed on putting the show together so I haven’t even looked much at the rest of the line up! Can you put me on to anything good? I mean, what should I go see?”

I suggest Debra Byrne’s one woman show Ripe, Bernadette Robinson’s smash-hit (and possibly Broadway bound?) Song for Nobodies and Melbournian cabaret star Gillian Cosgriff as sure-fire events to check out.

" I’m so glad to be getting out of town. I’ve been on Broadway now for almost twenty years. It’ll be great to do something so different like this"

“Ok, I’ll look into getting to those. This is such an adventure for me. I’m so glad to be getting out of town. I’ve been on Broadway now for almost twenty years. It’ll be great to do something so different like this. And this, for me, seems like a really great place and a really great opportunity to try out some ideas. I’ve never really done cabaret on an intimate scale like this before. I’m so interested to see how this goes.”

The idea that Sherie Rene Scott has been on Broadway for this long takes me completely by surprise. I know she made her Broadway debut in The Who’s Tommy in 1993 at the age of twenty-five – I had just never done the math.

From Tommy she went on as a replacement cast member in Grease, then on to Rent where she took on the impressive and demanding role of Maureen. This in turn led to her first star turn as Amneris in Elton John’s Aida and so on through a host of choice starring roles throughout the first decade of the 21st century, culminating in the production of her own Broadway show Everyday Rapture.

I take this moment to express my delight in that show – a semi-autobiographical stage show about Scott’s transition from her Mennonite upbringing in Kansas to the Broadway stage.

“It was a long time in the making. I wrote it with Dick Scanlan and it just sort of evolved over time into this show. And the reception it got on Broadway was fantastic – we were really pleased with it. It was really great to be able to create, and, in a way, it was necessary for me. In the show we created this character, who shared all three of my names, and yet was not me at all. I am so ambivalent about the spotlight and the stage really isn’t the place you would expect me to be. Whereas ‘she’ craves the spotlight and the attention and lives for the applause and that moment on the stage.”

“I don’t really expect people to know who I am.”

At this point I decide to segue by name dropping.

“I was talking to Eden Espinosa a few days ago about the same thing. She’s also headlining at the Festival. She didn’t think anyone in Australia would be very aware of her as a theatre actress. I told her she absolutely had a cult following here. You too – your presence at the festival has generated a lot of excitement.”

She seems taken aback – “whoa, that’s great! I mean really, I don’t expect people to know me at all. And this is very, very out of town. I thought I’d be amongst total strangers.”

“Oh no, you’ll definitely be amongst friends!” I burble excitedly, explaining how little we see Broadway stars out here. “Music theatre isn’t a defining part of Australian culture but we absolutely love it, and we’re getting very good at being the acid test for world premieres. Last year we had the world premiere of Doctor Zhivago the musical here and this year we have An Officer and a Gentleman.”

“See that’s incredible!” she gushes. “Here [in New York] it’s become so hard to experiment with new creative ideas. And you can go out of town, but word always follows and you get the full spotlight and critique of a Broadway show. That’s why I’m so excited for Adelaide. This is an experiment for me. It’s all new material and it’s a look to see how I go at a more intimate level of performance.”

“With no Ben Brantley [Chief Theatre Critic of the New York Times] commentary to follow,” I add.

“Exactly! I want this to be fun. This show is kind of organic, and it’s all songs I really do love – I want to see how it goes. I really just want this to be a relaxed affair amongst friends with some music, some laughs and a glass of wine!”

We talk for about half an hour – and every minute is spectacular. She’s such a delightful person, very relaxed and funny beyond my skill to capture in print. I enjoyed it so much, that it wasn’t until the end of the phone call that it struck me exactly how surreal it had all been.

I had just spent a good thirty minutes talking about some of the most prominent hit shows of the last decade with an established Broadway leading lady – a three time Tony Award nominee! – and the whole thing was effortlessly casual and warm.

Is this star-power? I think so! And Sherie Rene Scott has it, on stage and off.

Sherie Rene Scott will be appearing as part of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival at the Dunstan Playhouse June 22 and 23 for three shows only. A quiet star in the glittering line up of this year’s festival (unquestionably one of the best line up’s the ACF has ever had!) Sherie Rene Scott is the kind of artist we don’t get to see a lot in Australia outside of a 2,000 seater theatre!

This is a rare opportunity to grab a seat, a drink (Sherie Rene said there would be drinking!) and a look at a brand new creation. This is a world premiere we can be proud of at the new off-Broadway – an Australian theatre.

Sherie Rene Scott

Dunstan Playhouse 
June 22 – 23
Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2012 

adelaidecabaretfestival.com.au

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