Encore Michigan

Wilde Theatre’s ‘Ruthless’ a parody of stage-door Moms, child actors, community and school theatre

Review July 27, 2022 Julie Linderleaf

BRIGHTON, Mich.–Ruthless!The Musical  is an all women musical that is a spoof on the allure of becoming a star with book and lyrics by Joel Paley and music by Marvin Laird. The story is quite the parody of actress life with mystery, mayhem, and murder…lots and lots of murder, so much murder that the ending is like a Shakespearean tragedy. 

The story begins with homemaker mother, Judy Denmark played by Sarah Robson cleaning and answering the phone from multiple neighbors calling to complain about her daughter, Tina Demark, a third grader with ideas of performance fame, played by Olivia Goosman. A stranger comes to the door and says that she is the famous agent, Sylvia St. Croix, overplayed by design by Laura Mandernack– crooked wig and all! Syliva wants to make her famous, but Tina wants to try out for the school musical, Pippi, In Tahiti, featuring the character of Pippi Longstocking.

Unfortunately, the drama teacher, played by a real-life drama teacher, Lesa Doa, cast Louise as Pippi due to possible “parental influences.”  Sylvia gives Tina the idea to be the understudy in case there is an “accident” to the lead actress… And just that happens… Louise played by Samantha Bowling is just the first death in this crazy spoof of a musical.  The story goes way off the wire when Tina’s mother turns her daughter in to the police and discovers a twist in her own past that leads her to becoming a Broadway star herself!  Strange secrets uncover the way to a Shakespearean tragic ending like no other. 

The story is definitely a laughable spoof of theatre life and the dark arts of pre-casting. The music in this parody can be a little strange and complicated, but that’s to be expected in a show like this, which is not trying to be Lerner and Lowe. There is even a line in this very musical that makes a person pause and rethink music: “There are no lousy songs, only lazy singers.” Music director Daniel Bachelis holds things together.

Ironically “I hate musicals” was the best song in the entire musical sung by the theatre critic played by Lukowski. Let’s applaud the boldness and edginess of the writing team since there is even a song about brazilianning a hoo-hoo!  

Since the stage is a bit small, the set for this show maximized the use of entrances and exits. It was the Demark living room for act one, and her penthouse in act 2. The stage right door was a kitchen in act one and a bedroom in act 2. The stage left door was a creative staircase that led to the Demark second level, yet in Act 2 the entrance DOWN into a penthouse apartment.  The rooms are decorated with an extremely large picture window, very nicely painted by specialty painter Susie Lindsay.

Critics, real and fictional, have mixed views of Ruthless, even when it was running Off Broadway. It’d well-received in Brighton as the audience giggled, laughed, and had fun surmising about the mysteries laid out in front of them and left planning return trips to the Wilde Theatre.

Olivia Goosman as Tina Denmark is a stand-out in this production. She may have played a 3rd grader in this story and looks just a bit older; but she has singing chops and very good comedic timing. This is her first time acting at the Wilde Theatre, but is definitely using her Interlochen Arts Academy training to good use.  This 4 foot something firecracker has skills that no director should overlook. 

You can still get a chance to see Ruthless at the Wilde Theatre this weekend July 29-31. Tickets are still available at awildetheatre.com.  Wilde had added shows the weekend of August 5,6, 7.

Week of 11/28/2022

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