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I love Forbidden Broadway and Forbidden Hollywood. Gerard Alessandrini’s revue/parodies of popular shows used to come to San Diego. They hit hard, fast, and deep. His latest, Spamilton: An American Parody, promises to be “$800 less than Hamilton” and with “10 times the laughs.”

Ruthless! The Musical

  • Moxie Theatre, 6663 El Cajon Boulevard, Suite N, Rolando
  • $20 - $32

Ruthless! Joel Paley (book and lyrics) and Marvin Laird’s (music) spoof of Broadway musicals and horror movies, by contrast, moves in fits and starts at Moxie. Inventive co-direction by Leigh Scarritt and Delicia Turner Sonnenberg, plus some strong individual performances, make for an entertaining, if longish, evening.

Act One recalls The Bad Seed (1956), the noir-ish horror parade where eight-year-old Rhonda Penmark, in blond pigtails, covets the penmanship medal she didn’t win — really covets that medal.

In Ruthless! Tina Denmark’s school is doing a new musical, Pippi Longstocking in Tahiti. Now, surely eight-year-old Tina should don the orange pigtails and play Pippi. After all, Tina was “Born to Entertain,” she tells us in song. Why, she’d even kill for the role. Now, talk is talk and all — especially theater talk. Then Louise Lerman lands the lead and Tina vows to walk the walk.

When mysterious, albeit slinky, Sylvia St. Croix wants to make Tina a star, Tina’s anti-stage mother Judy objects: “We want her to finish school!”

To which slinky, albeit mysterious, Sylvia replies, “What time does she get out?”

Sylvia trails ominous clouds of backstory. “I wish I had a daughter,” she bemoans.

“I thought you…”

“A TALENTED one!”

The tighter second act references Joseph I. Mankiewicz’s All About Eve (1950 winner of six Academy Awards and four female nominations), where Broadway star Margo Channing finds a true fan in Eve Harrington — clingingly true.

Judy Denmark goes from a selfless housewife/anti-stage mother in Act One to a Broadway star and raging narcissist. Her nemesis is Eve Allabout, the maid who sings as she cleans “The Penthouse Apartment” and dreams of “having the life of [Judy’s] life.”

The cast, including a large ensemble of young performers, saves the sometimes rickety show with a relish for breaking the niceties of acting. In particular, Eileen Bowman’s Judy goes from a mousey '50s sitcom housewife – on Angelica Ynfante’s TV-sitcom set — to Joan Crawford on a really bad day, all the while singing to the skies.

David McBean’s Sylvia St. Croix is a walking fashion show (in Kate Bishop’s stylish outfits and one of Missy Bradstreet’s on-the-mark wigs) and a hoot, albeit mysterious and slinky.

Ruthless skewers the theatrically obsessed, including nightmarish critics. Pat Launer, who reviews for several publications, plays Lita Encore, a pundit from hell.

Talented Jeannine Marqui shoots comedic ire into Miss Thorn’s song “Teaching Third Grade.” Madison O’Donovan, who begins second grade in the fall, belts out Tina’s numbers like a pro. Choreographer Shirley Johnston scores as Miss Block, “famous thespian.” And Cashae Monya dazzles as Eve with physical — nay, mock-balletic comedy.

Playing through August 7

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