Ruthless!

RuthlessOriginal Los Angeles Cast, 1993 (Varèse Sarabande) 2 Stars (2 / 5) Ruthless! is a very campy show about a talented little girl named Tina Denmark, who loves to sing and dance. All of the characters in the show are women, though you can’t help wondering if some of them are being played by men. (In this cast, one of them is.) The others on hand include Tina’s mother, who identifies herself only as “Tina’s mother”; an aggressive talent agent named Sylvia St. Croix; Tina’s third-grade teacher, who came to New York to be an actress but was mugged before she left Penn Station; and several more, all of whom seem to exist only to exploit the little girl. Near the end of the first act, Tina kills someone, which we know because her mother sings: “Oh, what’s to become of my only daughter, who I have protected from croup and split ends? So many lessons that I should have taught her — like for example, to not kill her friends.” Has Tina murdered another little girl who got a part she wanted? That’s possible — but, from the album alone, unknowable. Tina is sent away to reform school and, after that, it’s hard to understand the additional characters we meet or anything that happens. The show’s lyrics, by Joel Paley, are often clever and are written with real craft; the music, by veteran dance arranger Marvin Laird, is brisk. — David Wolf