Music by Marvin Laird, book & lyrics by Joel Paley
What happens when you take The Bad Seed, All About Eve, Gypsy, Valley of the Dolls and The Women and roll them all together? Well, you get Ruthless, of course. An hysterically funny send up of these movies with a powerful cast, tuneful music, and a surprise ending. Nominated for five Drama Desk Awards including Best Musical. "Ruthless! ...a campy musical farce that will do almost anything for a laugh..." - New York Times
RUTHLESS! MERCILESS! RELENTLESS! HILARIOUS!
Portland Press Herald, 9/20/07
by April Boyle
Good Theater kicked off its sixth season Thursday with the apropos Ruthless! The Musical! The farcical satire is a brilliant sendup of the pitfalls of stardom. And, it’s mercilessly funny.
The award-winning musical by Joal Paley and Marvin Laird doesn’t specifically target reality shows, but does poke fun at stardom with outrageously funny parodies of such famous movies as The Bad Seed, Gypsy, All About Eve, Valley of the Dolls and The Women. The result is a delightfully twisted tale filled with infamous deeds, mysterious pasts, hidden identities, outrageous plot twists and loads of laughter.
Allen has assembled a phenomenal cast for Ruthless! The Good Theater’s co-founder and production manager, Underwood, gets the audience laughing from the moment the lights come up on his tall, lanky frame, dressed in pink skirt and blouse and black pumps. His rubbery facial expressions, campy poses and comic delivery keep the laughs rolling. Caufield adds to the fun with outlandish lines and comic timing to match Underwood’s. Her exceptional vocals and obvious talent makes such songs as "Where Tina Gets It From" all the more comical. The 15-year-old Bennett is a delight as the family’s fame-obsessed "bad seed." The cast also includes Denise Poirier (Myrna Thorn/Miss Block), Amy Roche (Louise Lerman/Eve) and Cathy Counts (Lita Encore). Poirier and Roche are wonderfully quirky and over-the-top in their multiple roles. Counts is a riot as the scathing theater critic.
Ruthless! keeps the surprises coming and the laughter flowing. Being ruthless has never been so much fun.
RUTHLESS!, SHOWCASES GOOD THEATER’S STRENGTHS
The Portland Phoenix, 9/26/2007
By Megan Grumbling
The nature/nurture theatricals turn lethal and delectably tongue-in-cheek in the Good Theater’s season opener, Ruthless!, a musical lampoon that amalgamates the pathologies of The Bad Seed, Gypsy, All About Eve, The Women, and Valley of the Dolls. We’re talking moms, daughters, strangulation, and all kinds of nasty ego transference. Brian P. Allen directs five of the area’s nimblest and most virtuoso women — plus the statuesque Stephen Underwood in drag — in a sly, sonorous send-up of talent, its sources, and its menace.
These kooky women propel quite a romp, and Allen has slipped superlative local actors into luscious character roles: Relish the formidably savvy Denise Poirier, both as jaded theater-aspirant-turned-third-grade-teacher Myrna Thorn, and as Miss Block, the butch, yellow-pant-suited reporter from the New York Thesbian (sic!). Savor Amy Roche, whose versatility and deadpan wit are always dazzling, as Tina’s young rival Louise and as the psychopathic personal assistant Eve. A fan of Stephen Underwood’s every lanky, droll incarnation, I delighted in his devilish and wild-eyed Sylvia more than I can possibly make clear. And I have a soft spot for any show that sends up the theater critic; this one casts the shrewd and exuberant Cathy Counts as Lita Encore, Judy’s adopted mother, who comes to town to review Tina’s Pippi.
In young Haley Bennett, who at 15 has already appeared on an impressive number of local stages, we have the pleasure of watching one of the next generation’s substantial musical stage talents. Bennett has a magnificent voice, a fine fluidity between song and character, and a great handle on the ingénue's characteristic disingenuousness — especially toward her mom. And the dulcet Caufield, taking aggro-passivity to the brink and then exploding it, is electric over a hell of a character arc. Her Judy is exquisite satire, amplified but always nuanced. Watch her horror as she registers all the unsavory revelations, and pay close attention as the first act wraps up, when Judy suddenly finds her inner diva. This transformation manifests a dramatic second-act overhaul, both scenically (to Janet Montgomery and Stephen Underwood’s very modernist, very orange penthouse with a view) and sartorially (to Joan McMahon’s silvery pants, Asian white leopard print, black feather boa, and platinum wig). Caufield is absolutely incandescent, throughout.
The whole cast pitches the campily lurid tenor of Ruthless! perfectly, and even Jamie Grant’s lighting — rising rosily for particularly ego-lush numbers — is tone-true to the industry’s fairy-tale narcissism. Good Theater’s Ruthless! is not just a sharp, wry and eye-pleasing hoot of a show, but one that’s absolutely dripping in, yes, talent. So much so that if I didn’t like it so much, I would be very afraid.
Director - Brian P. Allen
Judy Denmark/Ginger Delmarco - Kelly Caufield
Sylvia St. Croix - Stephen Underwood
Tina Denmark - Haley Bennett
Myrna Thorn/Miss Block - Denise Poirier
Louise Lerman/Eve - Amy Roche
Lita Encore - Cathy Counts
Co-Director/Choreographer - Tyler Sperry
Musical Director - Leslie Chadbourne
Set Design/Scenic Artist - Janet Montgomery
Technical Director/Sound Design/Set Design - Stephen Underwood
Lighting Designer - Jamie Grant
Assistant Technical Director - Craig Robinson
Production Stage Manager - Joshua Hurd
Costumes - Joan McMahon
Assistant Stage Manager - Adam Gutgsell
Second Pianist - Keith Witherell
Photography - Craig Robinson
* Member Actors' Equity Association