THEATRE REVIEW: Ruthless! The Musical starring Jason Gardiner and Tracie Bennett

WORTH A LOOK?: ***

WHERE: Arts Theatre

WHEN: 23/3, press night 27/3, runs to 23/6/18

Last year we shortlisted Tracie Bennett for our Best performance of a song monsta for I’m Still Here from Follies at the National.

  • Read on for reasons including the Britney Spears link to this show

We marvelled at her performance in that but also Mrs Henderson Presents (reviewed on this site) and a few years ago for her award-winning turn as Judy Garland in End Of The Rainbow.

Those hoping to see as much of her here as they did in those roles will be disappointed because her critic Lita Encore only really comes into her own during fine send-up song I Hate Musicals.

Ruthless! The Musical is the story of eight-year-old American Tina Denmark who will do anything to get the leading role in her school play. It’s a part that has famously been played before by Britney Spears and Natalie Portman but it is, surprisingly, former Dancing On Ice judge Jason Gardiner (pictured above) who steals the show in drag as agent Sylvia St Croix in this production.

We’re sitting in row two at this intimate 350-seater venue and can see exactly how much he is putting into this performance, his body twitching with the effort of portraying a deliciously camp talent agent who wants to make Tina’s dreams come true.

The songs aren’t as memorable as those in Follies or Mrs Henderson Presents but the show is delivered with a knowing wink and a nod to musicals such as Gypsy (the Imelda Staunton-starrer review can be found by using the search box on this site).

Special mention to Kim Maresca who has a lot of fun with what is essentially a dual role as Tina’s mother and is making her West End debut. Absolutely Fabulous fans will love the comic turn of Harriet Thorpe as Tina’s acting teacher who is coming to terms with her own thwarted ambition.

Ruthless! The Musical is a fun evening, filled with lots of laughs that has rekindled our interest in Gardiner who deserves to go on to bigger West End showcase for his talents.

  • Picture via Facebook courtesy Arts Theatre. Tickets
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