Ruthless! is outrageous and entertaining
Showing at the Arts Theatre in London for a strictly limited 14-week run, this revival of the critically-acclaimed off-Broadway production, first shown 25 years ago, returns with as much callousness as it had back then.
Directed by Richard Fitch, the all-female character cast includes eight-year old Tina, talented and pretty in a sickly-sweet way, tap dancing and singing her way across the stage at every opportunity and desperate to play the lead in the school play. Meanwhile her mother Judy, played by Kim Maresca – fresh from performing the role across the pond – takes a backseat to her daughter.
Judy is a retro housewife whose whole life revolves around the cooking, the cleaning and her gifted child. When eccentric and extravagant talent agent Sylvia (Jason Gardiner) knocks on their door one morning, everything changes and the secrets and pure ruthlessness of the characters is soon unravelled.
Also in the cast is Lara Denning (Betty Lerman), Harriet Thorpe (Tina’s teacher) and Tracie Bennett as Tina’s grandmother, Lita Encore. Bennett plays her role with drunken hilarity, and there are similarities between her characterisation of Lita and her Olivier Award nominated role as Judy Garland in End of the Rainbow.
Ruthless! is outrageous and entertaining, and famously spoofs Broadway musicals such as Gypsy as well as iconic movies like All About Eve. The music by Joel Paley (who also wrote the book) and Marvin Laird, although lively, isn’t memorable, but the cast’s passion and character's brutal merciless is engaging and comical enough to make it a musical to watch.
Reviewed by Alice Bzowska