BWW REVIEWS: A Star is Born During RUTHLESS! at Actors' Playhouse
Miami regional theatre Actors' Playhouse wisely chose pint-sized powerhouse Julia Dale to lead their company to victory with their production of Ruthless! The Musical, which opened this weekend at the Miracle Theatre. Well-known for showcasing her pipes during Miami Heat championships, Dale proves to be quite the triple threat while playing Tina Denmark, the ballsy eight year-old capable of song, dance and murder.
Proving that performers will go to great lengths for a role ('not just any role, the lead!') Ruthless! writers Joel Paley and Marvin Laird smartly craft their story around both cult film and musical references that highlight the ridiculousness of our business. Although the show originally premiered Off-Broadway in the early 90s predicting the future with such stars as Laura Bell Bundy and Britney Spears playing Tina, its relevance clearly remains with our fascination of child stars and, almost more acutely, their mothers.
Although seemingly a vehicle for young rising talent, the greatest character arc, and one of the most drastic written in contemporary musical theatre, is that of the child's mother Judy Denmark. Played with unmatchable clarity and humor by South Florida favorite Amy Miller Brennan, the role is a gold mine for a talented actor by allowing for the freedom to play two characters at polar opposite sides of the reality spectrum. Stereotypical 50s housewife Judy Denmark transforms into Broadway diva Ginger Del Marco overnight by way of a hilarious revelation during the showstopper "Angel Mom" gloriously sung out by Brennan and Dale.
The two are supported by a strong cast featuring a perfectly sassy Gabriel Zenone in drag as Sylvia St. Croix and funny gal chameleon Jeni Hacker as both child actor Louise Lerman and jealous assistant Eve. In the true spirit of musical theatre collaboration, director David Arisco worked with both choreographer Nikki Allred and dance captain Jeni Hacker to bring the production together cohesively on song and dance numbers such as Dale's over-the-top plea 'Born to Entertain.' Designers Tim Bennett, Ellis Tillman and Luke Kleinberg polish this musical comedy gem with all the right motifs and colors making Actors' version of Ruthless! The Musical a must-see this season!
Julia Dale and Amy Miller Brennan play mother-daughter duo Tina and Judy Denmark in Ruthless! The Musical. Photo by Brooke Noble.
Julia Dale stars as Tina Denmark in Ruthless! The Musical. Photo by Alberto Romeu Photography.