Aiming For Kitsch And Landing On Tacky, Ruthless! The Musical Is Crass And Amateur

Ruthless! The Musical, The Arts Theatre ★☆☆☆☆

By David Lloyd-Davies Last edited 7 months ago

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Aiming For Kitsch And Landing On Tacky, Ruthless! The Musical Is Crass And Amateur Ruthless! The Musical, The Arts Theatre 1
Photo: Alastair Muir

Written as a send-up of pushy theatrical parenting, Ruthless! The Musical, mashes together elements of every camp stage classic since Shirley Temple into a tedious flop of a show. Desperate for the lead role in the school play, precocious and psychopathic understudy Tina Denmark kills the star in a plot that has been done so much better, so much camper, and so much funnier in countless other formats – Drop Dead Gorgeous springs immediately to mind. The parody quickly unravels as the Broadway references become more niche and less witty until the alleged jokes are crass enough to claim nothing more than cheap laughs.

The lead role is played by Jason Gardiner, best known for his heavy-handed judging of Dancing On Ice. Bullying judges can be forgiven if they have the chops to back up their disdain. Unfortunately, Gardiner’s pantomime portrayal of Sylvia St Croix as a drag tribute to Christine Baranski deserves a frosty nil points. Even quality veteran Tracie Bennett succumbs to the vulgarity, portraying the drunken grandmother as a gormless slapstick fool. Drafted in from the last US production, Kim Maresca in the role of Judy Denmark seems to be the only one who ‘gets’ what this show is meant to be about.

Photo: Alastair Muir

Aiming for kitsch and landing on tacky, the set looks decidedly amateur. In fact, the whole production has the feel of a school play done by people who don’t understand the irony of a show about female empowerment being produced almost entirely and unselfconsciously by men. The whole thing from script to curtain-down is pointless, hapless and tasteless – forget Ruthless.

Ruthless! The Musical, The Arts Theatre, Great Newport Street, WC2H 7JB. Tickets: £19.50-£72.50. Until 23 June 2018.

Last Updated 29 March 2018