“Ruthless” – Phoenix Theatre

This review aired on KBAQ September 16, 2013


Phoenix Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

The 1993 musical “Ruthless” by Joel Paley and Marvin Laird, uses hysterical mockery and winsome spoofing to slam the musical theater many of us adore as it also satirizes the hypocrisy that too many theater critics bring to their reviews.  The show, now at Phoenix Theatre, is filled with hilarious songs like “Talent,” “Born to Entertain,” “I Hate Musicals,” and the title tune that smash and dice while bringing perfectly delightful and pointed comic mockery to theater critics and the musical theater.

Phoenix Theatre’s artistic director Michael Barnard stages “Ruthless” flawlessly as he molds the show’s spirited seven person, all female cast of stellar farceurs into a cohesive whole who deliver this spoof with loads of pointed innuendo and comic delight.  One of the characters, talent agent Sylvia St. Croix, is played with delicious comic irreverence by Rusty Ferracane who sashays around delightfully as a fey female impersonator.  

“Ruthless” focuses on cute Tina Denmark, a conniving child actress who in Riley Glick’s slyly crafty characterization transforms her into the hateful and malicious child star Tina must become.  Tina wants to be a star at any cost.  Her ditzy mother, Judy, is lusciously executed by Debby Rosenthal who sings marvelously and plays comedy brilliantly.  Her looks, glances and mannerisms add much hilarity to her Judy as she drips venom, delivers pungent one-liners with artful timing, and makes the audience love her character even though she portrays a clever genius who plans to milk her daughter’s success.

Judy’s mother, Lita Encore, is a leading theater critic who uses her power to get what she wants at any cost.  In Johanna Carlisle’s capable hands you hate this manipulative and devious critic as you should.  Barbara McBain essays with wry comic simplicity a couple of supporting roles and Rebecca Duckworth becomes another awful child star who goes after Tina.

“Ruthless” is Phoenix Theatre’s first attraction in their new Black Box Theatre, a much needed and wonderful small space that brings it’s audience into the play’s action, something that works perfectly for a show like “Ruthless.”

The delightfully comic “Ruthless” continues through September 29.  You can’t go wrong with the funny “Ruthless.”  For tickets, call the Phoenix Theatre box office at 602-254-2151 or order tickets online at www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Grade: B