February 28, 2011 —
Saginaw Valley’s theater department debuted the musical “Ruthless!” last Thursday.
Malcolm Field Theater was full of students, faculty and theater fans that couldn’t wait to see the satirical musical, which was directed by Ric Roberts.
The play had a small cast – eight members – but got big laughs from the audience.
“Ruthless!” is the story of a family desperate for fame.
Amanda Mueller played eight-year-old Tina Denmark, who is competing for the lead role in her school play. Tina is introduced to Sylvia St. Croix, played by David Ryan just before auditions for the show.
With Sylvia’s encouragement, Tina realizes that she should stop at nothing to pursue her dream of becoming a star, and she begins practicing constantly in order to win the lead role of Pippi Longstocking.
However, Tina is shocked to hear that Louise Lerman, played by Ashley Crittle, has been given the part of Pippi.
When Louise mocks Tina for only being given the part of Pippi’s dog, Tina is pushed to her limit. In an act of revenge, Tina strangles Louise with her jump rope.
The plot thickens as Tina’s teacher, Mrs. Thorn, played by Ashley Evans, asks Tina to replace Louise in the show. Tina excitedly agrees, and her mother, played by Danielle Schoeny, begins to put together the pieces of what happened.
Allie Barber, an occupational therapy freshman, and Tiffany Wilcox, a business sophomore, enjoyed the show and could see the cast’s hard work put into the performance.
“I like that they really worked on memorization,” said Barber, who had read the script previously. “I haven’t noticed many slip-ups.”
Wilcox agreed and added, “It’s very funny. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I’m enjoying it.”
Indeed, in just two hours the cast of “Ruthless!” captured the hearts of some audience members.
David Ryan’s performance was particularly amusing, as he played the aging female role of Sylvia. Ryan’s deep voice countered the feminine apparel of his character perfectly. The audience roared when Sylvia over-dramatically sang her last song with Ryan’s deep voice.
Overdramatic may be the best way to describe the musical, but the otherwise silly acting techniques of the cast fit perfectly with the play’s satirical nature. Cast members sang songs that contradicted themselves, such as Lita Encore’s rendition of “I Hate Musicals,” sung by Caitlyn Walsh.
The silly nature of the play was magnified by Mueller’s annoying-yet-endearing depiction of 8-year-old Tina. Mueller’s singing was great, but she shined even brighter when dancing. She choreographed her own dances, and performed with different styles of dance, such as tap and ballet.
Mueller’s performance was almost too good: Her portrayal of a child murderer was fairly creepy. Audience members laughed, and also got chills, as Tina laughed and explained to her mother how Louise had died.
Judy Denmark, Tina’s mother, had a plotline of her own throughout the musical. Growing up, Judy had always viewed herself as painfully untalented. This was ironic because audience members sat in awe as Schoeny’s beautiful voice filled the theater.
Act Two was just as humorously dramatic as the first, as Judy, now a Broadway star, must deal with Tina’s return from the psychiatric care facility where she has been held since Louise’s murder.
Judy also discovers the shocking truth about her past: Sylvia St. Croix is her biological mother!
Audiences laughed as the bizarre family reunion took place. Everyone in the room could see that each cast member was brewing with comedic timing, including reporter Emily Block, played by Jessica Rockwell, and Judy’s harsh adoptive mother, Lita Encore, played by Caitlyn Walsh.
The audience had just come to terms with the complicated plot twists of the second act when Eve, Judy’s shy assistant with stalker-like qualities, stormed the stage with a loaded gun and intent to kill.
Eve, played by Portia Brown, explained that she, too, was desperate for fame and was willing to kill for a spot on Broadway. Audience members roared with laughter as the entire cast battled for control of the gun – and as much fame as possible.