At Theatre Palisades, ‘Ruthless! The Musical’ Is The Perfect Entertainment for Out-of-Town Guests

(Left to right) Jon Sparks, Benni Ruby and Jenna Nicole Sullivan perform in the hilarious, but dark musical ‘Ruthless.’   Photo: Joy Daunis

With Thanksgiving just around the corner and out-of-town guests arriving and wanting to be entertained, take them to “Ruthless! The Musical” at the Pierson Playhouse. This is the perfect musical for that fault-finding aunt or the uncle who is driving everyone crazy with his well-intentioned advice.

Settle in and relax as the actors take you on a hilarious journey, spoofing big musicals, such as “Mame” and “Gypsy.” (WARNING: This show is recommended for ages 12 and older because of strong language and suggested violence.)

Called a dark comedy, the musical really has it all.

There’s Jon Sparks in drag, playing Sylvia St. Croix, a pushy, aggressive agent—who actually performs admirably in 3-inch heels.

There’s Grandmother Lita (Randy Cee), a theater critic who admits she hates musicals, and pans her 8-year-old granddaughter’s performance in a school play.

There’s Miss Thorn (Carly Reeves), frustrated actress and schoolteacher from hell. She says she hates third graders. When the eight-year-old star of her play is killed — oops, accidents do happen – Thorn pushes the understudy and murderer to take the role.

And then there’s the sweet adorable, talented Tina Denmark (Benni Ruby), an 8-year-old sociopath with star ambitions. Don’t get in her way!

Her mother, Judy (Jenna Nicole Sullivan), does a complete switch in character from a cheery 1950s housewife to an ego-driven star – and is quite amusing.

Finally, Louise (Jessica Stone), the character that was killed, plays her mother in the second act and adds to the confusion and fun.

This is a topnotch production with wonderful performances from outstanding actors. If you have not been to Theatre Palisades, lately, go. It would be a shame if you miss this production.

The New York Times review noted that this is “A spoof that has enough absurd plot twists and multiple identities to fill several old movies.”

Director Alta Abbot wrote in her notes, “I first saw ‘Ruthless,’ in its 1993 West Coast premiere . . . and just fell in love with it. When I heard that Theatre Palisades had announced this fabulous show, I was so excited as I have always been drawn to dark comedy and dark musicals.”

Greg Abbott, who is generally on the stage, is the assistant director, and has a small cameo in the play.

The show, produced by Sherman Wayne and Martha Hunter, is under the musical direction of Brian Murphy and choreographer Victoria Miller. The music in “Ruthless!” was written by Marvin Laird, with book and lyrics by Joel Paley.

Showtimes are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and Sunday matinees are at 2 p.m., through December 8. Ticket prices are $27 for adults, $25 for seniors and students. Call (310) 454-1970 or visit: theatrepalisades.org.

Jon Sparks (left), Jenna Nicole Sullivan (right) watch as the talented Benni Ruby performs.
 Photo: Joy Daunis

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