Phoenix Theatre’s “Ruthless!” a musical comedy gem

“Ruthless!” is the musical Phoenix has been waiting for.

The humorous off-Broadway parody of various musicals and movies creates an incredible show worth watching at Phoenix Theatre.

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Debby Rosenthal and Riley Glick as Tina and Judy Denmark
(Photos by Phoenix Theatre)

The show takes place in Phoenix Theatre’s new black box theater. The black box was the perfect stage for the production, allowing the characters to interact with the audience members and creating a production where everyone in the room was involved.

Though I didn’t know much about the show before I watched it, I had heard it was hilarious and a must-see.

I was honestly surprised. I didn’t expect the show to be as shocking and captivating as it was. “Ruthless!” kept me laughing during every scene, and I was constantly finding myself overly excited to see what would happen next.

“Ruthless!” features all female characters, who are exceptionally energetic women exploring the obsessive need to be a world-renowned talent. The musical centers around the so-called prodigy, 8-year-old Tina Denmark, whose narcissistic and sociopathic qualities keep her fighting for the limelight. Her ruthless endeavors to achieve fame are encouraged by her gaudy manager, Sylvia St. Croix, a woman who devotes herself to making Tina famous and convincing Tina’s mother, Judy, that such talent should not be wasted.

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Barbara McBain as Miss Thorn

Tina’s unexpected rejection after her audition for the school play, “Pippi in Tahiti, The Musical” quickly changes this seemingly sweet and innocent child into a manipulative, controlling brat. The show hilariously displays how Judy and Tina’s average lives quickly turn sour after Tina ruthlessly takes out the competition to get the lead role and Judy discovers her true calling.

The adorable 12-year-old Riley Glick starred as Tina and made the show worth watching. Glick surprised me again and again with her incredibly powerful voice and her impeccable ability to capture Tina’s bratty characteristics. She danced and sang her way perfectly throughout the show, keeping the audience constantly waiting for Tina to get back on stage.

However, I was not as easily drawn to Tina’s mother. Judy, played by Debby Rosenthal, did not win me over in the first scene. Although Rosenthal’s perfect take on the ditsy housewife was hilarious, her vocals were inconsistent. Her first solo resulted in some flat notes and parts of the song sounded more like she was shouting than singing.

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Rusty Ferracane as Sylvia St. Croix (Left)

But the nerves must have worn off because, besides a few hiccups, her vocals improved as the show continued. She impressed me with her last couple solos, as well as her final duet with Glick in “Parents and Children.”

My favorite song was “Teaching Third Grade,” sung by Barbara McBain portraying Miss Thorn. Though McBain sang it well, I enjoyed this song the most because of the hilarious acting and portrayal of a loud and drunken elementary school teacher disappointed with her career.

Unlike most other musicals, I would argue “Ruthless!” is not known for its song and dance numbers, but rather its crazy and in-your-face kind of characters. The over-the-top women in this show are what keep you laughing and wanting to come back to your seat for the second act.

One of my favorite women on stage was actually not a woman at all. Sylvia is traditionally a drag role and was brilliantly portrayed by Rusty Ferracane.

Ruthless4I was impressed with Ferracane’s vocal range, especially in the song “I Want the Girl,” and his ability to create a lovable-yet-annoying woman caught up in the glory of fame was shockingly exceptional. Everything from his hand gestures to his facial expressions to his humorous ability to dance around in heels was done extremely well.

If you are looking for a show with touching ballads, strong, dramatic songs and big dance numbers, “Ruthless!” is not your show.

That being said, this musical is one of my favorite productions I have seen in Phoenix. The odd storyline, crazy twists and shocking moments of little Tina cursing at the others in her squeaky voice will keep you throwing your head back in laughter.

The actors for this show were cast well and they all exceeded my expectations. I strongly encourage everyone to see it. The show runs through Sept. 29.