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Theater Review: "Ruthless! The Musical"

Photo credit:
Daren Scott

You’ve got typical hard-driving stage moms like Rose in “Gypsy.” And then you’ve got the reluctant Judy Denmark (Eileen Bowman), whose eight-year-old daughter Tina (Madison O’Donovan) was “Born to Entertain.”

But Judy, though she loves playing social secretary for Tina, really thinks having a normal childhood and getting through school will stand the girl in better stead.

“I’ve had a normal childhood,” snaps Tina. “It’s time to move on.”

The insanely talented Tina wants that starring role in the school play.

I mean, she really wants it. And pushy wannabe handler Sylvia St. Croix (played to the pouffy hair by David McBean) wants that kid on the stage as well.

Will mom or Tina win out?

"Ruthless!” – Joel Paley and Marvin Laird’s hilarious spoof of stage moms and their wannabe star kids – is back onstage in a sparkling production through Aug. 7 at Moxie Theatre.

Miss Thorn (Jeannine Marquie), director of the show, has the nerve to cast talentless tot Louise Lerman (Hayley Silvers) in the starring role of Pippi Longstocking, then turns the knife by casting Tina as Pippi’s dog Puddles.

But of course this cannot stand, and Tina, who will do anything for that role, first gets named understudy (thanks to Sylvia).

Then a campy circumstance involving a jump rope oddly used at an unfortunate height clears the way for the pint-sized Lady Macbeth, and she gets the starring role.

But the craziness isn't over: in the second act we learn that nothing is quite what it seems.

Judy morphs into Broadway actress Ginger DelMarco (I won't even try to explain it, but Bowman makes the switch wonderfully); Ginger's assistant Eve (Cashae Monya) also has a secret, and “Modern Thespian” reporter Emily Block (Shirley Johnston) tries to suss out the truth about Ginger.

Don't bother trying to keep up with the lunacy; just relax and enjoy it - and the voluminous showbiz references to “The Bad Seed,” “All About Eve,” “Gypsy” and “Mame,” among others.

The show is fast-moving, hilarious, campy and perfectly cast.

Directors Leigh Scarritt (who has trained all the kids in the cast) and Delicia Turner Sonnenberg keep it moving and the cast does the rest.

The roles of child stars Tina and Louise are double-cast. I saw Madison O’Donovan’s Tina, a real dynamite with a great musical comedy voice and an irrepressible personality to match. Hayley Silvers was terrific as the villain Louise.

McBean is the best female impersonator around, and his Sylvia is a scream. And I want some of those dresses.

The rest of the adult cast is excellent, from Bowman’s Judy/Ginger to Jeannine Marquie’s autocratic Miss Thorn to Monya’s Eve and Pat Launer’s amusing turn as (guess what?) theater critic Lita Encore.

Kudos to Angelica Ynfante for the versatile set and to Kate Bishop for the terrific costumes. Sherrice Mojgani’s lighting and David Scott’s sound and Shirley Johnston’s choreography make fine contributions as well.

Bravo to the whole gang, and especially to Scarritt’s 13 well-trained kids.

The details

“Ruthless! The Musical” plays through August 7, 2016, at Moxie Theatre, 6663 El Cajon Blvd. Suite N, Rolando area.

Thursday at 7 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm.

Tickets: (858) 598-7620 or www.moxietheatre.com