There's an old showbiz adage for actors that working with children is dangerous because they will invariably upstage you.
But in "Ruthless! The Musical" — an over-the-top parody of female-centric melodramas such as
Those grownups have to work hard, though, to keep up with bright-as-a-button Jasmine Forsberg, who plays little Tina
If you just heard an old soap-opera organ belt out the familiar minor chords that signal danger — dum, dum, dummmm — you have a sense of the show's tone.
Winter Park Playhouse has combined a cast of Orlando theater veterans with fantastic costumes, a more-elaborate set than usual for the Playhouse stage and clever musical cues from pianist Chris Leavy and percussionist Sam Forrest to give this silly story of ambition and betrayal more than its share of genuine laughs.
Housewife Judy Denmark (Heather Alexander) has a lot on her plate: Her husband is perpetually absent, her mother (blustery Cami Miller) is an abrasive theater critic, but most pressing is her daughter Tina's obsessive ambition on being a star and the appearance of a mysterious woman with the unlikely name of Sylvia St. Croix, who wants to be her manager.
The campy characters, plot twists, even some of the lines poke fun at "Gypsy," "Mommie Dearest" and the like. It's hard to keep a show running at such a torrid pitch from eventually burning out, though, and "Ruthless!" begins to wilt even before its dragged-out climactic finale.
It doesn't help that writer Joel Paley likes to repeat jokes until their comic appeal diminishes. But to the credit of the pros in the cast, the show retains its momentum longer than you might think such piffle would.
Alexander is at the center of the plot and is sweetly ditzy with a simple little laugh, as she mistakes the sound of the doorbell for the ring of the telephone. Director Roy Alan has let her be upstaged by the more eccentric characters around her.
Kevin Kelly, in drag, makes Sylvia a fabulous, dahling, cross between
Janine Klein, with frizzed-out, pencil-strewn hair, is a scene-stealer as a burnt-out schoolteacher swigging bourbon.
And strong-voiced Forsberg switches comically and convincingly from a
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•What: 'Ruthless! The Musical'
•Length: 2:30, including intermission
•Where: Winter Park Playhouse, 711-C Orange Ave.,
•When: 7:30 p.m. Fridays; 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. on two Sundays, Oct. 16 and 23, as well as Thursday, Oct. 27; through Oct. 29
•Tickets: $38; $35 seniors; $20 students and entertainment-industry professionals