We've all heard of that sometimes dark, sometimes laughable, ubiquitous theatre phenomena known as stage mothers: those pushy, single-minded lobbyists who, like Mama Rose in Gypsy, will do anything to get their kid cast as the lead in a show. Now stand this notion on its head, with a young girl willing to kill to get to play Pippi Longstocking, add high camp as only the Theatre on Broadway can do it, and you have Ruthless! The Musical.

Photo of Melissa McCarl, Steven Tangedal, and Melissa Deni
Melissa McCarl as Judy
Denmark, Steven Tangedal as
Sylvia St. Croix, and Melissa
Deni as Tina Denmark
Melissa McCarl is Judy Denmark, a '50's suburban mom extraordinaire. In a house littered with smiling daisies and matching accessories, from the pillows on the couch to the shutters on the windows to the insignia on her apron, Judy maintains her picture perfect existence with her daughter Tina and her mysteriously absent husband. Here, the multitalented McCarl, with her operatic voice and pliable face, exudes the vacuous bourgeois personality at the heart our consumer culture—and looking marvelous throughout!

Photo of Melissa Deni and Todd Peckham
Melissa Deni as Tina
Denmark, and Todd
Peckham as Louise Lerman
This idyllic existence is shattered when her daughter takes matters into her own hands to jumpstart her burgeoning grammar school acting career. Melissa Deni (who shares the role with Cassie Glenn) overflows with Shirley Temple charm as she sings and dances her way into the audience's hearts as Tina, the bad seed gone Broadway.

Tina's agent, Sylvia St. Croix, the glamorous and worldly Steven Tangedal, only makes matters worse by encouraging Tina's over-the-top aspirations. All this leads to a confrontation with Tina's hairy chested teacher, Myrna Thorne, played with sly understatement by Steven W. Miles.

The ups and downs of Judy's and Tina's careers are spiced with a number of crazy encounters with Todd Peckham, as both Louise Lerman, Tina's competition for the coveted role, and as Eve, a faux French maid that comes with Judy's newfound career as a Broadway diva.

Photo of Sue Leiser and Steven Tangedal
Sue Leiser as Lita Encore
and Steven Tangedal
as Sylvia St. Croix
Finally, Tina's all-forgiving Jewish bubbie shows up to make things right. So, who else but Sue Leiser could pull this off?

Nicholas Sugar's direction and choreography keeps the zany goings-on crisp and on-track. Donna Debreceni's musical direction and accompaniment is bright, and the costume and scenic design by Lamecia Landrum, Richard Pegg, and Tina Anderson are to die for!

The Theatre Group's Ruthless! The Musical runs through July at the Theatre
on Broadway. 303-777-3292.

Bob Bows


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