‘Ruthless! The Musical’ review

Theatre, Musicals
2 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
(9user reviews)

Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars

Camp, flimsy musical theatre spoof

A little girl with pigtails and a terrifyingly bright smile stalks through this parody musical, a revival of an off-Broadway hit that once starred the pre-fame Natalie Portman and Britney Spears. How much you enjoy ‘Ruthless’ slightly depends on how hilarious you find the sight of a small child cursing and battling her way to the top. Oh, and how much you like musical theatre: if you can say ‘Broadway’ without a rolled ‘r’ and spontaneous jazz hands, this show probably isn’t for you.

Joel Paley’s book is an unholy mash-up of musical theatre fan favourites ‘Gypsy’ and ‘Mame’ – with a touch of ‘The Bad Seed’ pre-teen psychopathy for good measure. Eight-year-old Tina Denmark has set her heart on the lead role in the school play. Her perky, Stepford Wife-esque mother Judy is cautiously supportive. But then Sylvia, an agent and acting coach who just happens to be in town, crashes her way into their lives and feeds Tina’s tap-dancing ambition.

Anya Evans is very funny as little Tina – and so is off-Broadway star Kim Maresca as her mother Judy, who cheerfully denies having any talent, even as her lip wobbles in virtuosic vibrato. The ‘serious bit’, insofar as there is one, comes from the show’s thesis that talent is an inescapable, inherited curse. The idea has a real darkness to it, especially when you think of all the musical theatre greats whose lives were cut short by a desperate need for fame. But the firmly unhorrifying ‘Ruthless’ doesn’t find that darkness, really.  Even as a musical theatre fan, raised on home videos of MGM’s schlockiest output, I still can’t see what this musical’s exploration of unswerving ambition gives you that the first act of ‘Gypsy’ doesn’t.

Richard Fitch’s production hits all the show’s campy bases, but the slapstick is fumbled, and the murderous gore is so tame that none of the audience, even its child star, will need to sleep with the night light on afterwards. Really it’s another sticky-fingered homage to that most self-loving of genres, musical theatre - and I’m not sure there’s an audience for it. An all-drag version at The Glory? Now that would get pulses racing.

By: Alice Saville



Users say (9)

4 out of 5 stars

Average User Rating

4.3 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:3
  • 4 star:4
  • 3 star:1
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
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1 of 1 found helpful

This is a show for audiences, not for critics. The critics are bashing it but it's one of the best nights I've had at the theatre for months (and I go multiple times a week). It is very very funny. There are some extra jokes in there for musical theatre lovers - if you know GYPSY or MAME you are in for a treat - but even if these references go over your head, it's still very entertaining. Cast are great - especially Anya Evans, Tracie Bennett and Kim Maresca. I see a lot of musicals and am generally quite critical. The book of this musical was far more sophisticated that a number of shows I have seen recently. I will definitely be going back! 

1 of 1 found helpful

If you enjoy musicals, you will love this one. It is very funny but also very dark. It's many allusions and references to classic past films come bouncing along in all sorts of guises. The music and lyrics bring smile after smile and that Marvin Laird (creator and composer of Ruthless among many others),was sitting behind us during the Q and A session made it all the more memorable. In fact, Jason Gardiner who performed admirably, became quite star-struck! Every one of the small cast of six has huge talent. All their voices are strong and worthy of the stage; the facial expressions are a treat to behold. Their was no weak link. Congratulations to Richard Fitch for admirable direction. On until end of June. Book it now!

1 of 1 found helpful

If you love campy, dark comedies then this is the musical for you! The entire cast is incredibly talented and hit each note perfectly. Some jokes are repetitive, and the major plot points are predictable, but definitely a great show to watch if you want to have a good time!  As Jane mentioned, probably not a show that is suitable for children 10+, but older teens and beyond will enjoy it

1 of 1 found helpful

A solid 4 star show! The cast was fabulous! Jason Gardiner skated through the role of Sylvia. Tracie Bennett was hilarious and although I found the music not memerable, I enjoyed every note when she sang about her hatred of musicals. The one who stood out to me was Lara Denning and I couldn’t get enough of the characters she played. Kim Maresca pull some of the best faces ever!! And of course Tina...well ... she’ll do anything.

The show is full of references, some of which flew over my head, while others hit my funny bone. I throughly enjoyed it, as did the rest of the crowd on Monday night.

Not really for children even thought 10+ is the billing. There were some behind me and they didn’t get it at all. The voices were strong and spot on, however I didn’t care for the songs they sang.

Go, relax and laugh out loud!


This musical is a bit nuts, there's no doubt about that, but it's also very entertaining. The storyline is quite far fetched and seems to glamorize killing to make your way to the top. That being said,all the actors are brilliant, especially Kim Maresca as Judy Denmark, even if she does do a weird lip wobbling thing after all her jokes. I didn't get a lot of the references, but then I hadn't seen some of the films/shows they took ideas from, so may have enjoyed it more if I had seen these. Go if you like over the top, camp, tongue in cheek musicals and don't take it too seriously.


Going to see this musical, I didn't had great expectations but at the end I really enjoyed it! A great fun night out on a well worked production. All actors including the little girl having the leading role, were absolutely fantastic. Don't expect amazing set designs & costumes - is more of a low cost production which manages though to entertain the audience.


Ruthless! the Musical, is a fun night out. Tina is a fantastic part for an aspiring young actress. Anya Evans who played Tina on the night I attended has a truly frightening smile. The acting throughout was exceptional. Kim Maresca was wonderfully Stepford wife in the first act and Liza Minnelli in the second.

The songs are ok and the story is good, but the lines are very funny and there are many references to famous shows and movies which are brilliant.

Yes, it is low brow and tacky - but that is its mission and it is great fun!

 loved it - was fast moving, funny, dark, a few cuss words, great singing, totally enjoyable. 

Yes it's panned by the critics, however my daughter loved it and is still singing the Pippi song - we are going back to see it and taking a few friends. 

Good acting but terrible script! The first part is witty and makes sense. The second part is awful. There is a lot of unnecessary swearing, drugs taking, gratuitous and random violence, all of which involved the supposedly 8 year cold character. The plot does not follow at all on the second part. It is a bunch of random actions with no logic lead up to them. It is a shame as the acting is good but would not recommend it at all and do not even think of taking children to watch it! Not a good musical at all. When there is so many good musicals out there it is a shame this is actually allowed to be shown. I found it totally disgraceful! It is the worse musical I have ever seen by far. Or rather the only terrible musical I have ever seen!

Totally pointless!

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