Have you ever given the Paul McCartney song “Another Day” a second thought? I know I sure hadn’t – at least not until I had the privilege of witnessing Sherie Rene Scott’s unique show, “Piece of Meat,” at 54 Below last night.
As anyone who caught Scott, famous for straddling commercial Broadway (Aida, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Disney’s The Little Mermaid) and irreverent Off-Broadway (The Last Five Years) in her semi-autobiographical show, Everyday Rapture, can attest, Scott isn’t afraid to bare her soul for audiences to see. And Meat, which could have survived on the thinnest of premises – a vegetarian suddenly decides to give in to her carnivorous impulses! Sing away! – probes into deeply personal issues.
Part of Scott’s strength has always been the inherent vulnerability in her presence – a soft, childlike speaking voice stemming from an enviably lithe body. And then the other part of such strength is her gymnastic singing voice, able to hit multiple notes and do so with such specificity that there is never a doubt as to what she needs to communicate about a character. It’s hard to tell if Meat is fully confessional, and as Scott discusses anecdotes involving calls from Paul McCartney, one guesses it is not, but fictional or not, the woman Scott presents in the show is undeniably full-blooded.
McCartney (along with a Rolex-clad Dalai Lama) factor heavily into Meat, smoothly directed by Lear DeBessonet. Scott mentions her own personal “holy triangle,” a mutually exclusive list of personal goals she strives to achieve: “good, fast, and cheap.” The line is humorous, but laced with self-awareness and regret; every song and intro has bite, reflecting personal hurts. So much so, that one might think her own triangle should invoke “disappointment, disillusionment, and denial.” Scott mentions her infatuation with McCartney and his first wife, Linda Eastman, who chose to be vegetarians and lived as ascetics for decades. She idealized their marriage, and mentions early wayward journeys to finding her own special one.
And that is when she launches into “Another Day,” a seemingly simple throwaway song about a dull woman’s unfulfilling job and personal life. Only Scott manages to imbue the song with so much yearning that the song takes on new life, becoming an anthem for the invisible woman. Of course, she is aided by flawless work from bassist Alana Dawes (herself still in college) and percussionist Levy Lorenzo, and by composer-pianist Todd Almond. Almond also joins Scott in several numbers: a treatment of Annie Lennox’s gorgeous “Honestly” and his own song, “Oh Sean.” (Almond also wrote the evening’s closing number,” This is Why We Do This,” with playwright Adam Bock.)
It doesn’t take long to discern that Meat isn’t really about what we eat. Scott instead ruminates on larger appetite issues – what we want out of life, what we are willing to do to get, what we are willing to abide and let go of. And her interpretation of other songs, from Noah and the Whale’s “Five Years Time” to Joni Mitchell’s “All I Want,” to both Robin Thicke’s and Pete Townshend’s identically titled “I am an Animal” to a thrilling version of the Talking Heads’ “Life During Wartime,” threads together a show not about silent suffering, but screaming survival. And lest it sound too heavy, Meat really isn’t. This is a show that includes table dancing, gold disco balls and half-naked men.
Sherie Rene Scott’s Piece of Meat
54 Below, 254 West 54th Street. Thru October 27. (646) 476-3551. www.54Below.com
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