music / Canberra Symphony Orchestra, ACTEWAGL Llewellyn Three, Llewellyn Theatre, July 18. Reviewed by GRAHAM McDONALD
With the subject of naked ambition producing a dark and unsettling message, it’s suitable for suitable for ages 12 and up and will, director Glenn Braithwaite believes, be an ideal vehicle for the students in CADA’s Certificate IV in Musical Theatre, who recently visited London as part of their course. This is their major and a chance to show off what they have learnt in the six-month intensive training program in singing, dancing and acting.
Braithwaite thinks “Ruthless” has only been seen once before in Australia, at Sydney’s Seymour Centre and expects the show, which spoofs Broadway musicals like “Gypsy” and “Mame” and movies such as “The Bad Seed” and “All About Eve”, will both please and unnerve audiences as it asks the question, “How far would you go to get what you want?”
“Murder is definitely on the cards,” he hints.Briefly, young Tina Denmark, an eight-year-old sociopath who believes she is born to star, is encouraged by her mother, Judy, and her over-the-top manager, to be in the school play, but things go wrong when she doesn’t get the lead role.
Meantime “nice” mum Judy has her own ambitions and the plot thickens.
Written by Joel Paley and Martin Laird, it’s been a hit several times over in both the US and the UK and is currently playing on London’s West End. When it premiered in 1992 on Off-Broadway it was known as “the all-female musical“, but by the time it got to Los Angeles, it had at least one male cast member, and in Braithwaite’s production there’ll be two.
Braithwaite, who like musical director Tracy Bourne, is a graduate of the Victorian College of Arts, has decided not to update the play, setting it in the 1950s, where the Denmark house is a “model” home. And he’s found the young cast members thrive in the 1950s atmosphere.
Apart from the obvious fun and high spirits evident at a media call yesterday, it’s a learning process, with actors, singers and dancers learning their skills through a musical that is fresh and relevant to all young theatrical aspirants.
“Ruthless! The Musical”, at Canberra Academy of Dramatic Art, 11 Whyalla Street, Fyshwick, July 12-21. Bookings to 1300 908905 or stagecenta.com