Monday 4 March 2024

Ruthless! The Musical review

Everyone wants to be talented. But not everyone can be talented. First performed Off-Broadway in 1992, Ruthless! The Musical is all about the lengths that people will go to be known and adored. This is the kind of show where you think it can't possibly go there, and it does, with much glee, audacity and campness.

Melbourne icon Dolly Diamond takes centre stage as talent agent Sylvia St. Croix who is determined to make Tina Denmark a star, even if it means creating a monster. Chloe Halley, giving off fabulous Little House on the Prairie Nellie Oleson vibes, as the menacingly charming 8-year-old acting prodigy. Britni Leslie as Tina's talentless homemaker mother finds great comedic timing and delivery as Judy and provides some devilish surprises for the audience in Act 2. Despite having a supporting role, Olivia Charalambous steals every scene she is when let loose as Eve, an obsessive and slightly unhinged assistant.

The story by Joel Paley is ridiculously over the top and fun, and Chelsea Matheson ensures this is reflected in her direction. Elaborate entrances and exits, wild gesticulations and flamboyant movement are a recurring occurrence and a constant source of entertainment by the cast. However, it’s with Dave Barclay's musical direction where the production fails to light a spark. The music begins to feel repetitive early on and the performances during the musical numbers need more variation. There's not adequate differentiation between the acting and the singing with the latter subsequently coming across as quite flat.

The pastel set design in Act 1 is simply gorgeous and perfectly underscores the domestic bliss and seemingly innocent lifestyles that Judy and Tina lead. In Act 2, with the stakes having drastically increased and murder, deceit and betrayals aplenty, the set takes on a fittingly darker and colder aesthetic. This tonal change is also highlighted by the costume substitution from flowing bright pink and yellow dresses to more dramatic and body hugging black and silver outfits.

While it's been over 30 years since it was initially staged, Ruthless! The Musical has plenty of twists and turns to keep fans of any soapie or melodrama intrigued. While the musical numbers might be a letdown, the performances and the script are a winning combination that results in this deliciously extravagant production.

Show Details

Venue: Theatre Works, 14 Acland St, St. Kilda
Season: until 24 Mar | Tues - Sat 7:30pm, Sun 2pm
Duration: 60 minutes
Tickets: $65 - $72 Full | $58 - $65 Concession
Alex Theatre

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