As the old saying goes, “You can’t keep a precocious and ambitious 8 year old psychotic girl who’s willing to kill for a part down.” Ok, so there might be some poetic license scattered within the phrase. At any rate, the creative team behind Ruthless! the musical are thrilled to announce an extension of their musical comedy, which was recently staged at the cabaret venue, The Triad. The laugh out loud performances will continue through November 29th and will star Joel Paley and Marvin Laird, the real life couple who also penned this deliciously deceitful cautionary tale of unmitigated ego.
The original article below ran on August 24th, 2014 and was updated on October 26th 2014:
Tina Denmark is an adorable 8 year old girl with charm to spare and a yen for entertainment. But like any overambitious, driven performer, she’ll kill you to step into the spotlight. Isn’t that sweet?!?! Its actually quite hilarious–and serves as the basis of the plot for Ruthless! The Musical, a send-up of classic camp movies like All About Eve, The Bad Seed, and Gypsy.
Joel Paley (Author/Director) and Marvin Laird (Composer) are bringing the hell child back to life this September in a new production of their 1993 off Broadway hit. The intimate soiree presentation (Or as Laird puts it: “sort of like an evening at Cole Porter’s house when he was living at the top of the Waldorf-Astoria”) will benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and will be performed at the Upper West Side’s posh Triad Theater.
Sophia Caruso stars as the “troubled” triple threat child. Laird will step into the role of Sylvia St. Croix, a pushy female talent agent who quenches Tina’s thirst for success. And because there is very little on this earth funnier than a grown man playing an eight year old girl , Paley will assume the role of Tina Denmark for three of the nine performances. His inspiration? A combination of personal affection for the charity and a chance to revive the same role he has played before. Last year, the production was done locally in Connecticut,where the real-life couple reside. On the day of the invited dress rehearsal, the little girl who was cast Tina Denmark came down with the flu. Paley recalls the story: “I called Marvin and asked what we should do. Marvin said, ‘You’re going on as Tina!‘ I didn’t even have a costume! I just wore my Bad Seed/Rhoda Penmark pig tail wig that I just happened to have–doesn’t everybody have one?!!?”, he quipped. “So we thought it would be fun to reproduce this in New York.”
The original inspiration for the show was sparked by an idea to musicalize the 1956 film The Bad Seed. As much as they tried, the couple had difficulty acquiring the rights to the movie, thanks to the tight reins of the Maxwell Anderson estate. Anderson had written the screenplay. They soon learned that they didn’t need rights to parody the film and expanded their scope to include other campy classics.
The show continues to be a favorite among regional theaters and different productions are continually being staged around the globe. This particular staging has generated such good will. Paley and Laird observe. “We have lucked into the best cast we have ever had…great cast, great designers, great artists, and great costumers and all for a great cause. The show has touched alot of people and many of them already knew of it, so they were very excited to be a part of this. We’re just blown away by that and it’s so wonderful.” Paley continues, “Before it became a full musical it was a long one act, but in the transformation, it became a two act musical because that’s what was required to get it off Broadway. In this staging, we’ve done away with the intermission and have streamlined it into 85 minutes that is roller-coaster sharp and fast.”
This will also mark the first time that the couple has collabaorated as actor (Laird) and director (Paley). “I haven’t performed like this since college, so this is a big step to be taking at this point in my career “, says Laird. “I can’t think of anyone who is more protective and more considerate of my talent than Joel, so it’s a real treat. After watching him direct and wishing I could benefit from his directing prowess, I finally got my wish. It’s also good time to observe that it’s never too late to fulfill a lifelong dream.”
“If you’re on this planet, you’ve got an ego”, Paley states. “This show is about ego run riot, much like the reality TV show Toddler and Tiaras.” The show also appeals to a gay audience. Laird explains that “every character in this show is a mystery wrapped in a cloak. They each have a hidden agenda that is stripped away gradually and it is kind of like the gay experience. At one point in your life, you’ve had to try to hide the fact that you’re gay. Their characters are also striving against the odds, much like Judy Garland.” Paley also points to the universal appeal, “Everybody at some point in some place wants to be famous, but wind up not being, and they try to make peace with that, but secretively they want to be doing something else on a bigger scale. I think that most people aspire to a greater notoriety than they are.”
Ironically, the two have worked through the ego that is so prevalent in the show. Rather than focus on the glitter and “what-ifs” of what’s next for the future of Ruthless! , the two have set out to do the show their way and show people what it really is. “We’re having more fun making fun of the ego,” Paley observes,”Because we’re not doing it from a place OF ego.” In addition, says Laird, “We’re sharing this creative experience with our wonderful cast and crew who have such joy and love for the project. In return, we are getting so much back and simply enjoy doing it.”
Ruthless! The Musical, playing now through November 29th. Stage 72 @ The Triad, 158 W. 72nd Street between Columbus and Amsterdam. There is a two-drink minimum for all shows. Performance schedule varies. Please visit http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/890419 for schedule and tickets.