Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Ruthless!"

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note: entire contents copyright 2008 by Beverly Creasey

Outrageous Genes

Reviewed by Beverly Creasey

Scientists postulate that an aberrant chromosome (XYY) is present in the genome of serial killers—so the idea of a BAD SEED (Remember the old movie?) isn’t so far fetched after all. What is far fetched---and now fetching raves all over the place---is Joal Paley’s idea of turning that schlocky movie into a musical. With wacky songs by Paley and Marvin Laird, RUTHLESS has elbowed its way across the country, landing for now in Cambridge at Metro Stage (through June 14th).

When actors say they’d kill for a part, they don’t really mean it but that’s exactly what a pint sized, third grade piranha does to get the coveted role of Pippi Longstocking. RUTHLESS manages to send up a slew of movies and musicals, from GYPSY to ALL ABOUT EVE to A CHORUS LINE and more---but clever director Robert Case even includes SUNSET BOULEVARD, with Tracy Nygard decompensating in grand style, eyes wide open like Gloria Swanson ready for her famous close-up.

Nygard again proves that she’s brilliant at naughty stage business, when Ginger discovers that show biz is in her blood. She literally fights the urge to perform, her whole body battling hilariously against her will. And Nygard can bring down the house, too, with a sensational number like “It Can Never Be That Way Again.” (Music director Abigail Cordell gets wonderful singing from everyone.)

If ever a show was made for scenery chewing, it’s RUTHLESS. Case has so many fabulous scene stealers in the cast, it’s a wonder there’s any set left. Christopher Hagberg is the cat’s meow as a Mama Rose with thorns. He can balance on six-inch heels, wear diamonds with more panache than Elizabeth Taylor and he merely quivers his lower lip (at the mention of Mary Kay) to send us into convulsions. (Kudos to Mark Frederics-Cabrera for Hagberg’s glittering wardrobe.)

Petite dynamo Hannah Forsley stops the show with her ruthless, unending entertaining—and spot on tap dancing (choreographed by Annita-Marie Brockney). Mary O’Donnell is joyously over the top as the spitfire theater critic (in Kimmerie H. O. Jones’ divine costumes) who cannot resist giving everyone, including her own granddaughter, a bad review---and she gets to sing the delicious “I Hate Musicals.”

Jaime Steinbach has two nifty turns, one as a sleazy reporter and the other as a harried third grade teacher who gets to deliver an adorable song about hating children. (What show does that remind you of?) Likewise Katherine Reynolds gives her all as the doomed Pippi in Act I and the scheming personal assistant in Act II who’s waiting in the wings to go on “as soon as Ginger snaps.” From that groaner, you can deduce the tenor of the dialogue. RUTHLESS is high camp and with so many divas hogging John MacKenzie’s spotlight, you know there will be plenty of laughs

"Ruthless" (6 - 14 June)
@ Durrell Hall, Cambridge YMCA, 820 Massachusetts Avenue, CAMBRIDGE MA
1 (617)524-5013

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