Reviewed by Talia Carlisle
“Where does talent come from?” This is the key question asked by character Sylvia St. Croix (Bea Lee-Smith) in Kauri Theatre’s talent-full production of Ruthless at Gryphon Theatre on until Saturday.
The show, directed by Bonita Edwards is brimming with talent from Bea Lee-Smith’s sequin covered entrance. There’s cheerful dance numbers, soulful solos and excellent comedic timing from all the cast, which includes three shining stars who share the role of child theatre prodigy Tina Denmark.
Addy Stone, Sarah Fitzgerald and Agatha McLeod are full of sparkle and life off-stage as well as onstage as young Tina. Since these actors frequent the audience seats when not performing, I was lucky to meet them and was impressed by their commitment both on and off-stage, especially on a school night!
Ruthless follows the journey of suburban housewife, Judy Denmark, as she questions where her daughter Tina inherited her talent and love of theatre, since Judy deems herself to have “no talent whatsoever”. This couldn’t be further from the truth for Judy actor Sarah Lineham and her real-life daughter Agatha McLeod who plays Tina when I attend on Thursday night.
She taps, trills and curtseys into our hearts, countered by Tina’s rival in the school play, Louise, played by beautifully dorky Millie Fuller. It’s an art to play a terrible singer and dancer, and Millie wins our attention and laughs many times over doing just so, and also as passionate assistant Eve later in the show.
During Tina and Louise’s rivalry, Sylvia and Judy’s quest to nurture Tina, and third-grade teacher Miss Thorn’s mission to create a legendary school production (played by multi-talented Julie Fitzgerald), tensions are raised and shots are fired.
Ruthless is magnificently narrated in parts by the character of Judy’s mother, and esteemed theatre critic Lita Encore (played by the always sparkling Jane Keller) with her killer cackle and sparking strut onto stage, each time worthy of great applause.
I’m inspired by the question Sylvia asks us, “Where does talent come from?” and am grateful for the opportunity to see so much talent onstage here in Ruthless, and behind the scenes thanks to flawless lighting by Tom Smith, and lighting and AV operation by Kauri Theatre president Cheryl Moeau (also the props manager). The set is a masterpiece by Rob Romijn, (also stage manager), and the costumes are eye-catching and sequin-studded by wardrobe manager Cathy Lee, with Bonita Edwards on wigs.
No detail is spared, no sequin is unsewn, and no laugh left behind in this entertaining production where songs and dances will embed themselves in your brain all week long. So come at your own risk for this delightful show ideal for actors and audiences alike. You’ll laugh, you’ll gasp, and get set to get wet if you mess around with our lead, because they aren’t afraid to be Ruthless!