Ruthless at the Arts Theatre: Review by Stephen Vowles

With music by Marvin Laird and book and lyrics by Joel Paley, Ruthless is a gorgeous breath of fresh air gushing on to the stage at the Arts Theatre like a tornado, with a cast that are just amazing. Jason Gardiner as the Agent Sylvia St Croix is perfection camping it up as if he was channelling Bette Davis as Margot Channing in All About Eve crossed with either Rosalind Russell or Ethel Merman. This musical zips along with a vim and vigour that does not let up for a second; we even get Gardiner donning a turban and long coat akin to Norma Desmond from Sunset Boulevard as this musical reaches its whirlwind of a finale.

This is a hoot. A pure unadulterated, laugh out loud riot. Pastiching all aspects of showbiz culture and the moral standards of white picket fence, racist America in the 1950s. Anya Evans who plays the role of Tina Denmark – in the performance I saw to review, although sharing the role with another actress – certainly embraced the part and this very talented young lady was taking no prisoners. Think of a complete mash up of Baby Jane, Annie, Baby June from Gypsy and even Shirley Temple on acid and you get it.

The phenomenal Tracie Bennett as Lita Encore has that midas touch and once again turns in a performance that is a complete scene stealer. Bennett has one of the best songs with “I Hate Musicals” where the irony of the song got the loud applause it deserved, and the laughter. Harriet Thorpe as Myrna Thorn, the bitter teacher who constantly dreams of what might of been, and Lara Denning who plays the joint roles of Louise Lerman and Eve, are also both incredibly good. Lastly it’s the outstanding stage presence of Kim Maresca as Judy Denmark that gets the gold star. Her vocal capability is just superb and in true ‘let me show you what I can do’ style belts out her numbers, making her microphone almost redundant. Wonderfully wicked and warped. Get a ticket and enjoy a rush of pure adrenalin. Utterly fabulous!

Pictures by Alistair Muir


Ruthless runs to the 23rd June at the Arts Theatre, 6-7 Great Newport Street, London WC2H 7JB. Box office 020 7836 8463. 

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