Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Ruthless!"

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note: entire contents copyright 2007 by Larry Stark


Book & Lyrics by Joel Paley Music by Marvin Laird
Directed by Russell R. Greene
Musical Director Mario Cruz
Choreography by Sharon Bisantz

Set Design Donna Corbett
Lighting Design Mike McTeague
Costume Design by David R. Alger *
Hair Desing by Marc Capizzi *
Makeup Design by Jack Wickwire *
Properties by Elizabeth Sheeran & Phyllis Uloth
Producer Phyllis Uloth
Assistant Stage Manager Phyllis Uloth
Stage Manager Sandie McNeal

Sylvia St. Croix............Shana Dirik
Judy Denmark...............Kathy Dalton
Tina Denmark..............Emily Sheeran
Myra Thorn.............Jennifer Shotkin
Louise Lerman.............Rebecca Riley
Lita Encore..................Jen Condon
Eve.......................Rebecca Riley
Miss Block.............Jennifer Shotkin
Frederick Denmark..........Marc Capizzi

Piano 1..................Mario Cruz
Piano 2...Don Boroson/David McGrory
Bass....................Lisa Hudson
Percussion..............Kevin Burke
Conductor................Mario Cruz

"Talent! Where does it come from? Is it inborn?" These are the first words of the wicked little musical "Ruthless!", spoken by Shana Dirik as the crafty drama coach Sylvia St. Croix --- a woman who can spot (and exploit) the obvious talent of 8-year-old Tina Denmark (played by 8-year-old Emily Sheeran [Honest!]). But of course talent isn't enough! To succeed in The Show Business these days you really need Drive! Enough drive to wangle an understudy-spot and then see to it the lead has an "accident" perhaps? Well, this is a rollicking comedy, Director Russell R. Greene has recognized it as the apotheosis of grand over-acting, and --- well, let's just say this is the intimate, realistic, truthful backstage-musical people like me have been burning to see --- and luckily Reading's Quannapowitt Players just added an extra performance, just for You!

Maybe talent Is inborn, since the young "Staah" of this production already has a resume including shows in Wakefield, Arlington, Stoneham, and three with North Shore Music Theatre and she isn't even in fourth grade yet. Her head-shot alone can get her film and t-v work --- and already has! (I fear sometimes that anyone who blossoms so big so young may not mature well, as an actress or as a person, but Emily Sheeran had the good sense to bring her own father Chip along to operate her follow-spot, so I needn't worry!)

Joe Paley's plot for this little romp turns out to be a devious search for little Tina's bloodline. Her mother Judy Denmark (Kathy Dalton) claims no talent and fears the cruelties of theatrical career --- perhaps because she's been raised by a theatre CRITIC? (Jen Condon as this Lita Encore stalks on proudly declaring "Of Course I closed her show with scathing comments about its second act: That's My JOB!") Still, Mom is diva enough to turn little Tina in and jump at a chance for a two-Toni Broadway success in the second act, isn't she? But why would Shana Dirik's drama coach slink into the lives of this family? Surely there's more than behind-the-scenes power involved... Right?

There are two more in this all-woman cast --- each playing two parts. Jennifer Shotkin returns to move the plot in Act Two as a --- well, as a ruthless reporter for a theatre magazine. But in Act One she is Myra Thorn, aspiring-actress-turned-teacher, writer/director of the third-grade epic "PIPPI LONGSTOCKING in Tahiti" (destined for world premier at Wheelock Family Theatre as soon as the rights are settled). Rebecca Riley plays Louise Lerman, cast, briefly, as (a very tall for her age) Pippi; but she emerges as Judy Denmark's slavishly imitative secretary Eve in Act Two. (Yes, it's parody-time gang!)

The entire plot boils down to Lita, Tina, Sylvia, and Judy alone on stage as The Four Divas --- and which, do you think, will survive?

As a reviewer I don't as a rule retail so much plot, but unless you Have tickets you probably can't Get tickets, so I decided to be self-indulgent. The last member of the cast, re-cast every performance, is the Audience, and the Quannapowitt Players can boast one of the best in the area. Out in Reading they must Drive to get to the Playhouse, but they boil in recognizing friends and subscribers and catching up on gossip before turning serious attention to the play. The Playhouse is usually an L-Shaped stage with its apex thrust between two banks of seats. And here Donna Corbett's warmly-colored set (on which Mike McTeague's lights move the action about) is backed by a wide picture-window through which can be seen Mario Cruz directing his two-piano, base & percussion orchestra for the witty Joel Paley & Marvin Laird songs and Sharon Bisantz' choreography.

The last name to mention is that of Russell R. Greene, the Director. Now it may be true, as Greene insists, that all he ever does is cast great performers, keep out of their way, and get lucky. If this is true I'm taking him to Las Vegas on the next available plane, since he's been "lucky" enough to have his name on a string of brilliant productions all across the local theatrical landscape for years. And here, Russ Greene gets lucky again!

If you Have The Drive, find friends with tickets and put a little sugar in their gas-tank....

( a k a larry stark )

* Date: Thu, 08 Feb 2007 14:10:42 -0500
From: "Russ Greene"
Subject: RUTHLESS Thank You
Thank you for your kind words about our ruthless lil production.
I was blessed by many things that made it an enjoyable evening, but one of the most important factor of our success is the LOOK of the characters. The fabulous work by my talented team of David Alger, Marc Capizzi, and Jack Wickwire costumes, hair, and makeup gave me perfect living Paper Dolls I asked them to create for me to play with. Just wanted to give them their well-deserved kudos. Again my talent for getting the right talented people for the job makes me the luckiest SOB Director around.
When we going to Vegas?

"Ruthless!" (2 - 17 February)
55 Hopkins Street, READING MA
1 (781) 942-2212

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