Feb. 18, 2005



Not just ‘Ruthless’ but overbearing

If you cry, the audience won’t,” the overbearing talent manager Sylvia St. Croix (Kevin Beaty) reminds her precocious young charge, Tina (Rachel Hirschfeld), at one point in the similarly overbearing Ruthless! The Musical.” One wishes librettist Joal Paley and composer Marvin Laird had learned the corollary axiom: If you push for laughs, we won’t laugh.

There’s some admirable wit and snap in director Stephen Knoll-Gentry’s brassy revival at the Hudson Theatre but not enough to overcome the show’s central spectacle of waste: Eight criminally overqualified actresses, left to mug, belt and screech through a flimsy, self-conscious exercise in low camp, padded out mercilessly past the two-hour mark.

In this convoluted fable of cutthroat competition, it’s not just mom Judy (the powerhouse Jayme Armstrong), daughter Tina and manager Sylvia who vie for the spotlight. Nearly everyone onstage – including a drama teacher (Cindy Warden) and a star’s assistant, significantly named Eve (Merry Simkins) – is aching for stardom and bursting to sing about it.

Even a crusty drama critic (Carol Woodbury) gets a number, “I Hate Musicals,” a hollow dis’ of amplified English imports (it’s hard to ignore that even in the 99-seat Hudson, the actors are also amplified).

Knoll-Gentry’s sets and Karen Knoll’s costumes are delightfully tacky. And conductor Bruce Coyle keeps the backstage band bouncing along to Laird’s endlessly showtuney score.

But, to use two of the show’s key reference points: These bad seeds don’t come up roses.

Rob Kendt

Ruthless! The Musical,” Golden Afternoon Productions, LLC at the Hudson Mainstage, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. $22. (323) 960-7785. Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes.