Ruthless the Musical - She'll do anything to get the part

It is my birthday week and I decided to do something not only 'out of the ordinary' but 'above and beyond' ordinary.  And am I glad I did!

I saw Ruthless the Musical.  Where do I start?  Well, it wasn't funny.  It was hysterical. 

Ruthless! Is a campy cult favorite in which the beautiful and talented 8-year-old Tina Denmark will do ANYTHING to play the lead in the school play.... ANYTHING! The show famously spoofs Broadway musicals such as Gypsy and Mame, as well as classic films including The Bad Seed and All About Eve. Ruthless! Is a 90 minute hilarious romp through the world of Broadway, child acting, parenthood, and unbridled ambition - and, murder, or better yet, murders.  Enter center stage -  Tina Denmark (Tori Murray)

Shown from left to right - Paul Pecorino, Tori Murray, Kim Maresca - Photos: Carol Rosegg, Gary Cooper

The original production of Ruthless! launched the careers of child stars such as Britney Spears, Natalie Portman and Laura Bell Bundy. This show has earned a Drama Desk Award and is a Outer Critic Circle Winner.  Oh, yes, and it won my heart.

What makes this musical so fabulous is that it IS over the top.  The acting is superlative.  And, to add to the acting and singing talent that adorns this stage, the audience was treated to the understudy for Sylvia St. Croix.  Normally, an understudy puts a question mark in peoples' heads, but this night the understudy was the author of the play, Joel Paley.  And, he didn't just understudy a normal actor with normal talent; he understudies a man playing a woman playing a talent agent who is relentless in her pursuit of Tina Denmark.  Little Tina, not that different from the Talking Tina in the infamous Twilight Zone episode or Patty McCormick in The Bad Seed, she invents the meaning of relentless.  She will do anything to anyone to get the part.  And, it doesn't have to be a big part.  It could be a school play.  And the lead could be a little girl with a speech impediment who may look 'too Jewish' for the part.  Either way, when little Tina takes her jump rope out for a spin, the future lead of the play may not have a future at all.  Little Tina needs to be put away.  And that she is.  She spends the next 4 years of her life at the Daisy Clover School for Psychopathic Ingénues.  Not to worry, though, although she is in stripes, they are designer stripes and a designer hat to match.

Shown from left to right - Tori Murray, Kim Maresca - Photos: Carol Rosegg, Gary Cooper

Judy Denmark, Tina's mom is played spectacularly by newcomer Kim Maresca.  Her talent is boundless as well as her voice.  She hit high notes I didn't even know existed and she is a pro at answering both the phone and the door.   She is June Cleaver on speed, but with a better voice and much better talent for acting.  The 60's decor only helped to enhance the experience of Judy Denmark, who, secretly would love to become a star herself.  But, oh my, can she do it because all her life she felt she was 'just a mom'?  Or, does the adopted-at-almost-birth Judy, have a birth mother who might just have the answer to her prayers.  You'll have to see it to, believe it.  I am embarrassed to say the wig mom was wearing was my hairstyle back in the day, as were the I Love Lucy dresses and heels. 

The third grade teacher from Hell, Miss Thorne (Andrea McCullough), reminded me of all my teachers in grade school.  You wouldn't want to meet her in a dark alley at night.  She should have chosen Tina for the lead.  But, if she had, there would be no Ruthless.

Show from left to right - Andrea McCullough, Kim Maresca - Photos: Carol Rosegg, Gary Cooper

Lita Encore (Rita McKenzie) is the retired theater critic and mother (possibly) of Judy, making her grandmother of Tina.  It seems Lita hated every review she ever did.  which obviously didn't play well for a director who offed himself when he read one of Lita's reviews.  Fortunately, she is out of the review circuit but in her daughter and granddaughter's life.  Is she a bit pushy?  Shall we say, she's another one you don't want to meet in a dark alley.


Later into the show, just as you think it 'might' be resolving, in comes  Eve Allabout (Tracy Jai Edwards).  That's just not her name, it's her part.  And, not to give much away, let's just say that  I would never hire her to be my personal assistant.

Shown from left to right - Tracy Jai Edwards, Kim Maresca - Photos: Carol Rosegg, Gary Cooper

Marvin Laird’s peppy ballads make for funny and inappropriate songs that fit the bill of this show perfectly.  The songs were cleaver and very, very funny.  The stage and theater is intimate, which works so well to present this production.  Although, I must say, this would play well on Broadway.  Even the out-of-towners would walk away with a smile.

In summary, just go see this show.  It's a great night out and you will not be disappointed.

Ruthless is currently playing at the St. Luke's Theatre, 308 West 46th Street, NYC.

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