Reginald Theatre, Seymour Centre, June 20
Eight-year old Tina is done with childhood. She was “born to entertain” and it’s time to get serious. In fact, she’d kill to get to the top. So look out Louise Lerman who lands the lead role in the school musical.
Marvin Laird and Joel Paley’s 1992 off-Broadway show Ruthless! The Musical is a very funny send-up of showbiz, talent and the pursuit of fame.
Featuring an all-female cast of broadly comic characters, most of whom aren’t what they seem, it’s a lightweight, cartoon bright and exuberantly farcical show.
Full of theatrical in-jokes, you’ll get most out of it if you can spot the abundant film and stage references (Gypsy, All About Eve, The Bad Seed etc) but it’s a hoot even if you can’t.
Presented by new Sydney company The Theatre Division, Lisa Freshwater directs a superbly cast, well staged production with stylish set and costume design by Mason Browne.
With her agile, powerful voice and delicious sense of comedy, Katrina Retallick is sensational as Tina’s mother Judy, a perfect housewife unaware of the talent running in her veins who makes a stunning transformation in the second act.
Ten-year old Madison Russo – a pint-sized triple threat with a powerhouse voice – is scarily good as Tina (a role she shares with Jade Gillis) and Geraldine Turner rips it up as Tina’s grandmother, the acidic theatre critic Lita Encore who loves closing shows and hates musicals.
In fact, there are terrific performances from the entire cast, which also includes Margi de Ferranti who is excellent as the school teacher who directs the musical and a star-struck journalist from Modern Thespian, Meredith O’Reilly as agent Sylvia St Croix who is as hell-bent on Tina’s success as Tina herself, and Caitlin Berry as Louise and Broadway personal assistant Eve.
Ruthless! sure ain’t subtle or deep. Towards the end it starts to feel like an overextended sketch but it’s such fun that a good time is guaranteed.
Ruthless! The Musical runs at the Seymour Centre until July 12. Bookings: www.seymourcentre.com or 02 9351 7490
A version of this review ran in the Sunday Telegraph on June 29