In this season of immense pollen attacks, all I wanted from today’s matinee theatre trip was to achieve my aim of sitting quietly and managing not to blow my nose too loudly. The reviews I’d seen gave me little hope that this aim, if accomplished, would be by any means outshone by the performance. But, rarely one to miss the chance of sitting in the cheap seats, (and eager to do something with my day off from work), I headed to Ruthless! The Musical.
Date of viewing: 14/06/2018
Production: Ruthless! The Musical
How cheap!?: £2 – through Central Ticket‘s seat fillers scheme
Described as an all-female camp cult classic, Ruthless! The Musical is running only until the 23rd June at Leicester Square’s Art Theatre. Having never been to the venue before, I was pleasantly surprised by the cosy auditorium and trendy coffee/bar area. (At least if the show’s no good, I can have a good drink, right?)
After sitting nervously for the show to begin (for what seemed like ages) the overture began and I was relieved of all doubt that the show would fail to impress as the fabulous Jason Gardiner slink-ed on stage as Broadway-sage, Sylvia St Croix. Simultaneously an eccentric and delicate performer, Jason set up the show with suitable showbiz glamour.
Ruthless! The Musical is a story that will feel familiar to any aspiring star and dreamer of (or partaker in) the showbiz lifestyle. Eight year old Tina Denmark is determined to play the lead in her school play and is prepared to go to any lengths to make that happen. Wise and not so wise counsel is offered by the influential women in her life, and we’re taught that the secret to stardom is to be unerringly ruthless. The show is undoubtedly feminist in its agenda, but in a refreshingly playful and friendly way.
Tina’s mother, Judy, played by Kim Maresca, makes a dramatic transformation from suburban housewife to Broadway star. Kim plays both extremely well and with great comedic emphasis. Kim (like all her costars) is laugh out loud funny – with a phenomenal voice to boot. She puts up well with Sylvia St Croix who has forced her way onto the scene with the clear intention of making Tina a star.
“laugh out loud funny”
Tina’s theatre-critic grandmother (played by Tracie Bennett) and retired-actor/teacher (Harriet Thorpe) each have their pointed mark to make on Tina’s pursuit for stardom and hilariously teach us about both the wins and woes of a life in the ‘biz. Tracie is sensational when she, rather ironically sings ‘I hate musicals’ and has that fantastic showbiz glitz from a time gone by. Harriet‘s performance is less captivating, but still manages to goad her viewers into laughter. Lara Denning who multi-roles as one of Tina’s school friends and, later on her mother’s secretary, was unfortunate to be cast as the least interesting characters of the show, but makes good contribution with her very powerful voice.
The star of the show, Tina Denmark, played by Lucy Simmonds (one of four alternates) showed-off her incredibly forceful voice and neat dance moves at only 10 years old. Lucy‘s version of Tina is deliciously devilish, and thoroughly inhibits an old-time depiction of vaudeville childhood performers which is undoubtedly alien to her own experience of performing. Some child performers fail to stand tall against the older, more experienced performers in a cast, but Lucy was clearly very comfortable in this role and really did give the old hand’s a run for their money.
Musically, this show is surprisingly interesting with fantastically funny lyrics. It successfully spoofs many classic shows, without stealing too much – it borrows with great originality. Anybody who likes the kitschy-ness of Little Shop of Horrors, or the outrageous-ness of Gypsy is sure to adore this show, which has the audiences roaring with laughter at the things we love and hate about the acting industry and the shows and people it churns out.
“Lucy‘s version of Tina is deliciously devilish”
If you’re not willing to sit through a show which is dark or crude, Ruthless! The Musical is definitely not for you. Its beautiful set, costumes and talent don’t mask the fact that this really is one naughty little performance, so you’ll need to be prepared to be delighted and horrified in equal measure!
(Although the elderly lady sat behind me exclaiming that it was better than Dreamgirls was utterly wrong), Ruthless! The Musical really is a fantastic show. I’m pleased that I didn’t let my preconceptions prevent me from spending what turned out to be a fantastic afternoon out at this truly uplifting show – my advice: you shouldn’t either!