“Ruthless!” brought mayhem and murder to Creighton’s Black Box Theater.
Joel Paley’s writing and lyrics from the 1992 Off-Broadway show were brought to the Creighton stage by director Taylor Adams, an Opera Omaha Fellow and Creighton Theater alumnus.
The Opera Omaha Fellows website described Adams, saying “As a passionate artist that strives to make space for all within their art, Taylor is thrilled to serve as a Fellow, bringing programming to the communities they serve and hopes to expand the elements of opera, classical music, and their love of puppetry to more young people in our community.”
Given Adams’ work with underrepresented communities in the Every Child Program at the Rose Theater, it is no surprise that they brought an all-female cast for this Creighton show.
Emily Voogd, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, reflected on that aspect of the production. “This was my first experience with an all-female musical cast. It was inspiring working with a group of talented motivated women. We all encouraged each other to grow and develop as artists through this experience,” she said.
The story of “Ruthless!” follows Tina Denmark, a talented 8-year-old actress, and her housewife mother Judy. An opportunity for young Tina comes in the form of an agent, Sylvia St. Croix, who will stop at nothing to get Tina to the top of success. In doing so, Tina murders her classmate and is sent to child actor jail, setting the tone for the rest of the piece.
The focus shifts to Judy Denmark, whose adoptive mother Lita Encore reveals her true identity. This causes a crisis of personality for Judy, who ends up shedding her housewife and motherhood mentalities completely in exchange for a launch into her own stardom. This newfound personality causes conflict between all the characters in the show, ensuring the mayhem and murder didn’t end in the first act.
Voogd played the part of Lita Encore. “Lita Encore is an older character, so I worked on playing with my lower register when speaking while also talking a bit slower. There are limited showings of Ruthless online. However, from the few I observed, Lita is often played by a drag queen for comedic purposes. While I cannot accurately portray myself as a drag queen, I pulled from the “larger than life” acting,” she said of her character preparation.
All weekend showings of “Ruthless!” was sold out, with ushers asking audience members to leave no seats open next to them in order to fit all ticketholders.
Madhu Mohanraj, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, said “I came to see the show because of the stage manager, and I enjoyed every bit of it. I had a great laugh, and it was a great way to unwind before midterms,”.
The show concluded with a bang (or rather, several) as all seven characters gathered on stage for the final reprise of “Ruthless!” and a full circle moment of Tina taking charge of her own destiny.
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