BWW Review: RUTHLESS! at Gettysburg Community Theatre
Upon arriving at Gettysburg Community Theatre to see their currently running show, RUTHLESS!, I was struck by the esthetic quality of the theatre and its majestic grandeur married with the hospitality of a well-connected community atmosphere. My anticipation for the show to begin was soothed by the intimate space of the stage and the preshow music, which was playing with just the right amount of cadence. The stage set was designed precisely and with effective balance.
RUTHLESS! is a musical written by Joel Paley with Music by Marvin Laird. Gettysburg's production is directed by Shane Miller, with Music Direction by Nicholas Werner and excellent Set, Lighting & Sound Design by Michael Connelly. RUTHLESS! is billed as "The Stage Mother of All Musicals," with an all-female cast, except one role, which is traditionally played by a man. It tells the story of a very talented but somewhat psychotic young girl with proficient sass (Tina Denmark) played by Tessa Trax who will stop at nothing to guarantee her rightful place as the star of the school's play. One deed is so dastardly that she ends up in a reform school for psychopathic ingénues. While Tina is serving her time, her mother, Judy Denmark (Carrie Trax) discovers her real mother was a famous entertainer with the last name of DelMarco. Judy uncovers her own hidden talent and pursues her stardom. Wanting to bank on her real mother's last name, Judy changes her name to Ginger DelMarco.
With misguided support and insufferable coddling, Tina is lead to her rightful place, center stage, by Denmark, and Chad-Alan Carr (Sylvia St. Croix). Each character has their own agenda which manifests in hilarious and witty interactions. Rounding out the cast is Becky Wilcox (Lita Encore,) who wears her hair as if it was spun cotton candy, and delivers her lines worthy of every sharp-tongued theatre critic with an agenda; Emily Smallwood (Eve) who characterizes her role with deliberate coolness and a splash of sass; Linda Fink (Miss Thorn) playing her role nicely as the walking advertisement for everything intentional, theatre director; and Audrey Trax (Louise Lerman) displaying her many talents with poise.
From the first song, TINA'S MOTHER, Judy Demark introduces herself with the same crispness as the starched dress she dons. Every blessed blond strand of her bobbed hair is neatly coifed and tied up with a smart ribbon. Carrie Trax uses her phenomenal subtle comedic timing to draw focus to Judy's wide-eyed pandering of Tina's every whim. Her body language encompasses perkiness and attentiveness beautifully. Her bent wrists are forever perched as if waiting for a bird to land on either one to guide her through yet another magical day. Her presence is grounded and her focus never waivers.
When we are introduced to Tina in the earworm of a song, BORN TO ENTERTAIN, the energy level increases and the fourth wall is intentionally broken (the imaginary division between the performer and audience). Now the audience delightfully is part of the play. Tessa Trax exudes personality while portraying the talented and effervescent Tina. She makes the audience believe in all her self-guided awesomeness, which is well founded.
Ready to pounce with all her gorgeous and stately flair, Sylvia St. Croix makes an entrance worthy of Norma Desmond in SUNSET BOULEVARD. Carr embodies Sylvia from the tip of her cigarette holder to the point of her sparkly heels. Carr flashes Sylvia's glitz and glamour with exactness. His characterization is big but never too bold. He speaks with huskiness as if derived from a nightly capping of whiskey. And, I might add, has the legs of a supermodel.
The songs are so very entertaining and delivered with voices every mother would love. The control, emotion and variable undulations are delivered by each cast member beautifully and will leave you in a state of giddiness. The show ends with the title song, RUTHLESS, but Gettysburg Community Theatre's production is anything but; it is a merciful example of a witty, funny, and most of all, entertaining production.
RUTHLESS! is showing June 2-18, 2017, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:00 p.m., and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. at Gettysburg Community Theatre, 49 York Street. To order tickets, please visit www.GettysburgCommunityTheatre.org or call 717-334-2692
Photo credit: Cindie Leer/Leer Photography