I was recently told that the most common form of comedy is through the subversion of social behaviour, the unexpected anti-social behaviours. Ruthless! qualifies this advice with its narcotic looks from the young Tina Denmark (Anya Evans), later to be reciprocated by her mother Judy Denmark (Kim Maresca) and similarly executed throughout the piece.
The directive style Richard Fitch’s spoof musical takes some time to adjust to for the mainstream theatregoer like myself, however it doesn’t take long for laughter to appear amongst a full auditorium.
Marseca has a unique comic timing, sharing just the right amount of spoofy (subtext) yet taking the comedy seriously enough to leave us laughing out loud. Jason Gardiner as Silvia has an uncanny ability to not only to cross- dress, but also to land gag after gag and has a presence and energy that leaves us wanting more.
The second half just gets better as the spoof comedy turns unexpectedly farcical with such a fast-paced humour that we are left without a single dull moment as each character bar Tina takes to the stage for their final bow in a spoof musical fashion.
The musical as a whole has an atmosphere of joyous playfulness as cheesy choreography is grated, songs are vibrato’d to death and acting is indicated ironically to the highest of heights as the characters express the mainstream pet peeves of professional directors everywhere, constantly shouting such detestations at actors and performers.
Ruthless! is a show that accommodates to a variety of humour, from slapstick (techniques) such as throwing props into the wings, language quips and misunderstandings, Brechtian ‘fourth wall’ acknowledgements such as the characters themselves reminding each other of what happened in the first act and much more that had me laughing so that I ended up missing them!
The unpredictable storyline driven by laugh out loud characters provides the best night out since Kinky Boots, reminding us never to trust a singer, dancer actor or more importantly, a theatre critic, so definitely don’t take just my word for it!
The amalgamation of characters is a compilation of laughs waiting to happen: they’re a disturbed family of talented sassy smart mouthed musical stars with: alcoholic grandma, unaware mother and little princess daughter, whom, together with an unpredictable fast-paced plot line left even the harshest of critics with grins on their faces.
Eve (Lara Denning) the normal personal assistant, is the everyman character amongst all the showbiz sass, storming the stage with perhaps the funniest number of the show, “Penthouse apartment”. She opens the second act with the false hopes and hilarious attitude towards the wannabe stars we all know: wearing her idol’s dresses, spraying her idol’s perfumes and even snorting the idol’s little bag of drugs that are clearly not for medicinal purposes.
The script writing by Joel Paley successfully reaches a wide audience range as the musical theatre community are given little puns like (misquote) “nobody good performs on cruises” while the rest of the real world invests in the stupidities and pettiness of the musical theatre industry as a whole.
Marvin Laird’s satirical music complements the narcotic mockery of musical theatre as everything turns more and more farcical, far from the sweet innocence of the Annie– like appeal earlier in and it spans a whole host of musical theatre composers from JRB to Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Ruthless! The Musical is playing at the Arts Theatre until 23 June 2018
Photo: Alastair Muir