Arts Theatre, London – until 23 June 2018
Guest reviewer: Shaun Dicks
The Arts Theatre, in the heart of the West End, has been host to a plethora of eclectic shows (from Ushers to American Idiot to Murder Ballad), including new and edgy work. Currently, it plays host to Ruthless! The Musical, a story of an all-American family that becomes fractured because of a school play and Tina, the youngest member of the family, whose desire to get the lead goes too far. Ruthless is full of camp, betrayal, deceit and talent.
The score of the show by Marvin Laird isn’t the type of score we come to expect from a show at the Arts, it is very stylised but also very clichéd. The majority of the score has been overdone and overused in a multitude of shows before this and the influences are obvious.
However, the book and lyrics by Joel Paley are well thought out and give the cast something to work with. The minimal amount of choreography is crisp and stylised, the direction is simple but mostly well executed. What is lacking in this show is a spark, there is nothing exciting about it. There is a distinct lack of creativity that stifles it. Everything presented here, I’ve seen before.
Despite the show’s hindrances, there are some positives. The comedic timing of all is completely spot on, the energy from the entire cast is high for the most part and the twists are well executed. I cannot fault the cast, they all delivered solid performances, with Jason Gardiner as Sylvia St. Croix as a particular standout. His performance is stylised, well thought out and exceptionally delivered.
Ruthless has its good moments but also its flaws. It has moments of humour and glamour but there is sadly no stand out moments. The show is good for what it is, and its message is very appropriate in the world of Instagram famous, but the material is nothing to rave about. The casting has saved this show, if the cast hadn’t carried the material like they have, this show would be a flop. They did the best with what they were given and sadly what they were given wasn’t good enough.