Monday, December 8, 2014


By Guest Reviewer Rick Busiglio (

This is the story of the play that almost wasn't. ​The Chester Theatre Group set out to produce the award-winning musical, but rarely produced in our area,  Ruthless! The Musical (book and lyrics by Joel Paley and music by Marvin Laird) starting in November 21st for three weeks. However, in the face of what might have been a fatal blow for mere mortals (i.e.,the  casting change of a lead role one week before opening!), a band of absolutely marvelous community theater performers, musicians and crew—clearly not in any way mere mortals—pulled off a remarkable resurrection (you know, the phoenix rising from the ashes). They miraculously recast the part (Tina), added extra rehearsal time, and wow! they triumphed big-time. I wish I could urge you to see this laugh riot with six, yes six, standout performances from each member of the cast. But it is not to be, for due to prior commitments, the run lasted just two weeks instead of the planned, and budgeted, three weeks. The final performance was last Sunday  afternoon​.

Ruthless! the musical is an outrageously campy delight. It is a parody of Broadway musicals and iconic Hollywood movie,s such as The Bad Seed, Gypsy, and All About Eve.

​The plot centers on a​n​ untalented mother, Judy Denmark (Maria Brodeur), Ruthless_CTG_1with a remarkably talented daughter, Tina (Molly Farrell; left), who is desperate to perform. Sleazy agent Sylvia St. Croix (Michael Foley) provides encouragement as Tina auditions for THE LEAD in her school play, Pippi in Tahiti. Unfortunately, the third grade teacher, Miss Thorn (Beth Amiano Gleason), chooses the untalented daughter of a local merchant, Louise Lerman (Raven Alexandra Dunbar) for the lead, making Tina the very ​reluctant ​understudy.  Tina, handles the rejection in a less than normal​, but unique​ manner: She murders Louise and goes on as Pippi. She also goes on to the Daisy Clover School for Psychopathic Ingénues. 

Meanwhile, Judy, who was adopted at an early age by theatre critic Lita Encore (Lisa Deane), finds that her real mother was actually a Broadway star, Ruth Del Marco. The news means that she ​may ​actually ha​ve  inherited talent! As could only happen in fiction, Judy turns into the gifted Tony-Award winning Broadway star Ginger Del Marco. The star's assistant is an aspiring actress Eve (Raven Alexandra Dunbar-doubles) who becomes Judy/Ginger's deadly understudy. Also, in the mix is a reporter Emily Block (Beth Amiano Gleason​-doubles​) who is set on revealing Ginger's past, including Tina's ​special method of career building.

Ruthless_CTG_2_Molly_as_TinaRarely have we seen a play with stand-out performances from all cast members, but each member had a show-stopping star-turn.

Molly Farrell (photo right) was truly remarkable as the evil singing and tap dancing Tina. She particularly delightful in the Born to Entertain, To Play This Part and There's More To Life numbers.

Maria Ludwig Brodeur (below) was terrific as wimpy Judy Denmark and the​n the confident, arrogant Ginger Del Marco. Her big solo was Tina's Mother

Michael Foley was sensational as Sylvia St. Croix. He delivered a spot-on performance as a manipulating ​(female) agent. He also made a great fashion statement in heels and hats. His big song was Talent

Ruthless_CTG_3_Maria_as_JudyBeth Amiano Gleason wowed with both her Miss Thorn, the third grade teacher, and the black leather dressed reporter Ms.Block. Her big showstopper turn was Teaching Third Grade. Lisa Deane as the critic Lita Encore scored with the best song of the show I Hate Musicals, Raven Alexandra Dunbar as Lousie Lerman/Eve had fun with A Penthouse Apartment.

Director Cindy Alexander, musical director Clifford Parrish, choreographer Megan Ferentinos, producer Ellen Fraker-Glasscock ​ and assistant director Bob Longstreet deserve their own ovations for the impressive effort in overcoming a tough situation and our admiration for the outstanding production they produced. The phoenix did not just rise it soared!​

​​Reviewed by Rick Busciglio  December 6, 2014

​Musical director Clifford Parrish (piano) led a fine trio of musicians: Tom Rodgers piano 2; Michael Aberback percussion; and Tim Metz bass.

Production credits: Steve Cantron & Kevern Cameron set design/construction; Diane Butler stage manager; Peg Hill, Ellen Fraker-Glasscock​, Scaramouche costumes (the elaborate costumes were perfect, adding much to the comedy); ​Bob Longstreet sound designer; Ellen Fraker-Glasscock ​ lighting; Cindy Alexander props;​ Dave Villepique crew.

Photos by Tom Glasscock