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Ruthless! The Musical
Ruthless the musical.jpg
Los Angeles Cast Recording
Music Marvin Laird
Lyrics Joel Paley
Book Joel Paley
Productions 1992 Off-Broadway
1993 Los Angeles
2015 Off-Broadway revival

Ruthless! The Musical is an all female musical with music by Marvin Laird and book and lyrics by Joel Paley that spoofs Broadway musicals, like Gypsy and Mame, and movies such as The Bad Seed and All About Eve. The musical premiered Off-Broadway in 1992.

Production history[edit]

The musical opened off-Broadway at the Players Theatre on March 13, 1992 and closed January 24, 1993 after 342 performances. It was directed by Joel Paley with musical direction by Marvin Laird. (Laird was later the musical director for the Broadway revivals of Annie Get Your Gun (1999) and Gypsy (2003)). The central role of Tina was played by Laura Bell Bundy, [1] and featured Natalie Portman and Britney Spears as understudies.

Ruthless! The Musical was then produced in Los Angeles at the Canon Theatre, where it opened on November 15, 1993.[2] A recording was made by the 1993 Los Angeles cast on Varèse Sarabande and released on March 29, 1994.

The show won the 1993 New York Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Musical.[3] The musical has had a number of professional productions, particularly in regional theatre. Ruthless! The Musical played at the Colony Theatre, Miami, Florida, in January and February 1995, directed by Paley.[4]

The musical ran for nine performances in September 2014 at the Triad Theater in New York City to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.[5] The production returned to the Triad in October 2014.[6]

The musical opened Off-Broadway at St. Luke's Theatre on June 25, 2015 (previews), officially on July 13, with direction by Joel Paley, musical direction by Ricky Romano, and music supervision by Marvin Laird. [7] For this production, Paley said: "...In this staging, we’ve done away with the intermission and have streamlined it into 90 minutes that is roller-coaster sharp and fast."[8] The cast features Kim Maresca (Judy Denmark), Tori Murray (Tina), Peter Land (Sylvia St. Croix), Tracy Jai Edwards (Louise), Andrea McCullough (Miss Thorn), and Rita McKenzie (Lita Encore).[9]


Act I

Judy Denmark, a bland housewife, is the mother of talented eight-year-old Tina, who declares, "I was born to entertain." At the suggestion that she should postpone her stage ambitions to be a normal child, she replies, "I've had a normal childhood. It's time to move on." Sylvia St. Croix, an overbearing and sleazy agent, encourages Tina to audition for the school play, Pippi in Tahiti, The Musical, feeding her thirst for stardom. Third-grade teacher and frustrated actress, Miss Myrna Thorn, directs Pippi. She casts an untalented (but parentally connected) girl, Louise Lerman, for the lead, making Tina the frustrated understudy. After "begging nicely and saying please," Tina "accidentally" hangs Louise from the catwalk with a jumprope so that she can play Pippi. (In the Los Angeles production, Louise is killed by a falling sandbag dropped from the rafters by Tina.) Lita Encore, Judy's adoptive mother (and Tina's grandmother), a tart-tongued theatre critic who "hates musicals", shows up to review the premiere of Pippi in Tahiti; and, In a series of revelations, we learn that Judy is the daughter of Ruth Del Marco, a Broadway star from the past who was believed to have committed suicide because of bad reviews from Lita Encore. Judy recognizes that she herself is talented. ("I'm talented! God help me, I'm talented!")

Act II

Once Tina's crime is discovered, she is sent away to the Daisy Clover School for Phisychopathic Ingenues. Former housewife Judy Denmark is now a success on Broadway as diva Ginger Del Marco, but the world wants to know where she came from. "Modern Thespian" reporter Emily Block directs a pointed interview at Judy and discovers not only her housewife past but that she has a child. Tina is released from serving her time, and comes back to Ginger's fabulous penthouse apartment (and her jealous assistant, Eve). Tina seems to be reformed, but Ginger sees through the act ("you're not that good") and calls her bluff. Mother and daughter face off for the limelight. Sylvia re-enters, wanting nothing more than to take Tina with her. She reveals that she is Ruth Del Marco, and Ginger's mother. She did not commit suicide, as was believed, but instead went into hiding. Suddenly, Eve pulls out a gun and after revealing that she is Louise Lerman's ("Act One?") mother Betty Lerman, in a struggle with Ginger Delmarco, is shot dead. Tina then takes the gun that shot Eve and holds it to her mother, asking to be in cast in her new play. At that moment, Lita Encore bursts in and Sylvia struggles for the gun with Tina and is shot dead. She sings her final song, after which, Lita Encore comments "ah, she could never sing." Sylvia comes back to life one last time and shoots Lita. Ginger then becomes Judy again because of all the extremely stressful events that have taken place. She tells Tina that they'll never set foot on stage again to which Tina responds, "You're right, mother. there's no money in theater...we're moving to L.A....We'll do a sitcom!" Judy, realizing her daughter has not learned a single thing, proceeds to kill herself by electrocution. Tina begins to declare, gun in hand, that there's no money in Broadway, when she is interrupted by Miss Block, who returns looking for her pad and pen. Tina shoots her and finishes explaining that there's no money in Broadway and that she's moving to Hollywood to get a series.

Characters and original cast[edit]

This list shows the original casts of the principal productions

Character Original Off-Broadway Cast Original Los Angeles Cast
Tina Denmark,
an 8-year-old aspiring child actress
Laura Bell Bundy
Lindsay Ridgeway
Judy Denmark/Ginger Del Marco,
Tina's Mother and secret Broadway prima donna
Donna English
Joan Ryan
Lita Encore,
a drama critic and Tina's grandmother
Denise Lor
Rita McKenzie
Myrna Thorn/Reporter,
Tina's teacher
Susan Mansur
Nancy Linari
Sylvia St. Croix/Ruth DelMarco,
a talent agent and Judy's real mother
Joel Vig
Loren Freeman
Betty Lerman/Eve,
Mother of Louise, the girl Tina killed, and Ginger's assistant
Joanne Baum
  • Note: Though the show was written for an all female cast, it has become somewhat of a tradition to have the role of Sylvia St. Croix performed by a man simply because Joel Vig gave the best audition for the original 1992 production.


Awards and nominations[edit]

Drama Desk Awards (1991-92)
  • Laura Bundy -- Outstanding Actress - Musical (nominee)
  • Donna English -- Outstanding Actress - Musical (nominee)
  • Joel Paley -- Outstanding Director - Musical (nominee)
  • Joel Paley -- Outstanding Lyrics (winner)
  • "Ruthless" -- Outstanding Musical (nominee)
1993 Outer Critics Circle Award
  • Best Off-Broadway Musical - (winner)


  1. ^ Holden, Steohen. "Theater in Review" The new York Times, May 13, 1992
  2. ^ Jacobs, Tom. Daily Variety, December 3, 1993
  3. ^ "Awards, 1992-1993", accessed February 5, 2011
  4. ^ Erstein, Hap. "'Ruthless' Delivers Big Laughs With Great Cast, Silly Humor", Palm Beach Post (Florida), January 17, 1995, Section: Accent, Pg. 3D
  5. ^ Gans, Andrew. "Marvin Laird and Joel Paley Get Ruthless!, Starting Tonight to Benefit BC/EFA", September 2014
  6. ^ Gans, Andrew. "Following Limited Run, 'Ruthless!' Will Return to NYC Stage", October 14, 2014
  7. ^ Hillyer, Michael. "Review. Ruthless! ", July 14, 2015
  8. ^ Gans, Andrew. " 'Ruthless the Musical' Returns Off-Broadway", June 25, 2015
  9. ^ Stewart, Zachary. "Review. 'Ruthless! The Musical'" theatermania, July 13, 2015


External links[edit]