“Ruthless! The Musical,” which opened the new season at Falls Church’s Creative Cauldron last week, is a raucous, laugh-a-minute hoot. The Cauldron’s producing director Laura Hull wrote in the program that she chose it for this time frame six months ago as she “suspected we might be in the throes of a contentious presidential election and we might just be in need of a good dose of laughter.”
Last Saturday night’s audience was made up of attendees at the Cauldron’s annual benefit event, held on site at the Art Space of Falls Church on S. Maple St., and they had no difficulty matching every laugh line with robust guffaws and squeals of their own.
The book and lyrics and Joel Paley and music by Marvin Laird, the Cauldron production that runs through October 30 is directed by Cauldron’s talented fixture, Matt Conner, and features a ensemble of other talented fixtures who’ve delighted audiences with their Cauldron performances, including numerous Helen Hayes recommended ones, and others.
This show also includes a newcomer, Sophia Manicone, a sixth grader at the Louise Archer Elementary school, making her professional debut with a major role in this show. Her understudy is Madeline Aldana from Falls Church’s Henderson Middle School and a product of the Cauldron’s Learning Theater.
The production demands a lot of perfect timing to pull off all the humor, which is where Conner comes in. His directing has the fast pace, goofy moves and sharp one-liners keeping the audience in stitches.
No, there is no profound existential realities conveyed here, except that people are people, with all their imperfections especially in their pursuits of high school musical or Broadway fame that make us all feel better.
There’s room for a short cameo appearance that Hull has assigned to different celebrities each night, including Falls Church Mayor David Tarter last week and State Delegate Marcus Simon this week.
The cast worked together so well that the show brought out the best in all. The voices of Manicone, Katie McManus, Tamarin Ythier, Shaina Virginia Kuhn and Kathy Halenda are all highly entertaining, and the Alan Naylor absolutely excelled in his drag performance as Sylvia St. Croix, a role which morphs, as with others, into surprises as the wacky plot unfolds.
Naylor was brilliant in two other Cauldron productions, Monsters of the Villa Diodati and Jacques Brel is Alive and Well (for which he won the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Leading in a Musical), but in outdoes himself in this show with a hilarious campy rendering that does not let up.
Behind the scenes is the veteran music director and pianist Walter “Bobby” McCoy, who did the Cauldron’s Once on This Island and Caroline Or Change last year whose tempo set the tireless pace on stage.
This is the kind of show that grows on the actors who find new nuances and laugh lines as it proceeds, so it may be even fresher for an audience later this month as now, which a good excuse to see it more than once.