Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron

Ruthless!
Beck Center for the Arts
Review by Mark Horning

Also see Mark's reviews of Urinetown and The Bloodless Jungle


Carla Petroski and Matthew Wright
Photo by Kathy Sandham
Take Mame, Gypsy and any other female-centric Broadway extravaganza and throw them in a blender. Add a precocious homicidally bent third grader who will do anything to be a star, her mother who throws her child under the bus in order to further her stage career, the mysterious woman/agent who is her birth mother, the Broadway critic who raised her, plus a teacher and assorted also-rans and you have the concoction known as Ruthless! now playing at the Beck Center for the Arts through October 16, 2016.

More than anything else, little Tina Denmark wants to be a star. Her mother Judy wants only to be a stay at home mom answering the phone as "Tina's mother" while waiting for the infrequent visits of her husband Frederick. Enter the woman of mystery, agent Sylvia St. Croix (aka former Broadway star Ruth Del Marco) who faked her suicide years ago after a bad review by Lita Encore who ended up raising Judy after her mom's mysterious disappearance.

When Miss Thorn (former Broadway hopeful, now third grade teacher) casts Louise instead of Tina as the lead in Pippi Longstocking Goes to Tahiti. Sweet Tina takes matters in her own hands and murders Louise. Her mother rats on her and she gets four years in reform school. The notoriety sends Judy (now Ginger Del Marco) on to her Tony winning career. On the day Tina is released things take a tragic turn when the entire cast (including the mysterious father) end up at Judy/Ginger's plush penthouse apartment overlooking Central Park in New York City.

This absolutely outrageous 1992 spoof on everything Broadway and Hollywood hit the Off-Broadway stage for 342 performances before being unleashed to local theater companies across America. It recently completed yet another Off-Broadway run.

The barbs are quick and sharp as the actors skewer every aspect of what it is to be "a star." This cast holds nothing back as they fight through numerous bombastic musical numbers. Mathew Wright is hilarious as Ruth Del Marco/Sylvia St. Croix, shifting vocal range at will to stress a dramatic point. Lindsey Mitchell as Judy Denmark/Ginger Del Marco evolves from the shy housewife to the seasoned Broadway veteran. The real surprise is Calista Zajak as Tina Denmark who is an adult in a child's body. Her very adult language, mannerisms, and unbelievably strong singing voice are truly remarkable and worth the price of the ticket.

Kate Leigh Michalski as the put-upon teacher Miss Thorn does a hilarious send-up of passed over wannabes who end up having to actually work for a living. Ditto Carla Petroski who plays Louise as well as the mom of the unfortunate victim. Last but not nearly least is Carla Petroski as Lita Encore, the Broadway critic who despises musicals. The entire cast gives it their all, from the subtle facial expressions necessary with great comedy to the full blown production numbers as they try to out stage each other. There is also a wonderful surprise in the form of the mystery guest who plays Frederick.

Opening night found a cast ready to hit the stage and entertain. There was nary a dropped line or error in the entire show.

If your brand of entertainment runs to outrageous musical spoofs, this is a must see show. The dialog is rapid fire, the jokes broad and frequent, and there are enough surprises to keep you guessing. This would be a great guy or girls' night out. Come fill the seats.

Ruthless!, through October 16, 2016, at the Beck Center for the Arts, 17801 Detroit Avenue in Lakewood, Ohio. Free onsite parking is available. Tickets are $31 each for assigned seating for adults, $27 for seniors (65+) and $12 for students. A $3.00 service fee will be charged for each ticket at time of purchase. Group discounts for parties of four or more are available. To purchase tickets, call (216) 521-2540 ext 10 or online at www.beckcenter.org.

Musical direction by Larry Goodpaster. Choreography by Martin Cespedes. Cast: Matthew Wright as Sylvia St. Croix, Kate Michalski as Miss Thorn, Carla Petroski as Lita Encore, and Brittni Shambaugh Addison as Louise Lerman/Eve Allabout. Equity actors Mitchell and Wright appear courtesy of the Actors' Equity Association (AEA), the union of actors and stage managers.


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