New York | 1h 30m | Already closed

Ruthless! The Musical

From 21 critic and 216 member reviews
Members say: Funny, Entertaining, Clever, Quirky, Hilarious

About the show

This campy cult favorite that spoofs the world of Broadway and child acting follows Tina, who will do anything to win the part of Pippi Longstocking in her school musical, including murdering the leading lady. More…

Wimpy and untalented mother Judy Denmark has a remarkably talented daughter, Tina, who is desperate to perform. Sleazy agent Sylvia St. Croix encourages Tina to audition for the school play, 'Pippi in Tahiti.' Unfortunately, the third grade teacher, Miss Thorn, chooses the thoroughly untalented Louise Lerman for the lead, making Tina the understudy. Determined to achieve their individual goals, everyone becomes a little ruthless, some more than others.

1h 30m | Already closed | St Luke's Theatre (Midtown W)

New York Theatre Wire

"To say that I loved the musical 'Ruthless' is a gross understatement. More accurately put, I loved, loved, loved 'Ruthless'...While much of the action is predictable, if not inevitable–that’s what spoofs are all about–the story of 'Ruthless' is like a favorite aunt who you know everything that she is going to say and do, but still you never tire at watching her do and say it...I am happy to announce that the musical was even better the second time around." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"The cast is absolutely superb from start to finish...You will marvel at the genius firmly planted in Marvin Laird’s memorable musical score, and the riotously funny book and lyrics by Joel Paley could very well leave you with a belly ache from laughing so hard...This show will no doubt ignite a renewed appreciation for over the top, camp/horror musicals! I say bravo to that, original works with razor sharp teeth are exactly what Broadway needs." Full Review


"The plot is predictable, but that is all part of the fun...This self-proclaimed 'Stage Mother of All Musicals' is wickedly hysterical, lighthearted summer fare that anyone into camp and parodies of old Hollywood will not want to miss." Full Review

Theatre is Easy

"Tiny Tina Denmark is anything but sweet. And this makes the revival of 'Ruthless!' an ideal treat for those who enjoy the camp humor of female-driven cult classics like 'Mommie Dearest'...While Paley’s book is perhaps the strongest element, Laird’s music is also a delight...While 'Ruthless!' is certainly campy summer fun, there’s also a deeper message, if you feel like digging a bit. Talent can be a curse, a virus even, passed down from one generation to the next." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

"Paley has staged everything to within an inch of its life, with musical underscoring helping accent each move and piece of business. The acting, as in similarly camp-oriented farcical exercises, is decidedly overdone, but tactfully enough to keep it within bounds; you'll roar at some gags and gag at others." Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

"This amusing theatrical parody of the cutthroat road to fame and stardom is talent filled…The adorable ten-year-old Murray is so reminiscent of a singing and dancing Patty McCormack. Her comic timing is killer… The original creator Joel Paley, directs this like a B-movie that is making fun at itself and for ninety minutes, we laugh at cheesy jokes, thrill at the campiness of it all, follow the plot line and the tuneful score. Ed Wood would have loved this show!" Full Review

Stage Buddy

"It’s a show that certainly provides laughter by the second, but also reveals a darkness you only begin to perceive hours after you’ve left the show. Are talented people worth more than the untalented? Is talent something that’s nurtured and developed, or something you’re simply born with? With outstanding performances and direction by Joel Paley 'Ruthless!' is a decadent night at the theatre complete with brilliant comedic performances and catchy tunes." Full Review

Hot Pepper Theater

"This is not a show about plot- it's a show for people who love drag queen sensibility. The whole show plays with that sort of high camp. It's so finely crafted and the songs are really catchy and memorable." Full Review

Time Out New York

"The preternaturally self-assured Tori Murray plays this Shirley Temple of doom in the show’s current revival, and the joke still kills. Not everything else about Joel Paley and Marvin Laird’s musical holds up quite so well, but it's an enjoyable slice of cyanide birthday cake. The show-tuneful score is lively and the main cast is strong…Rotten as the state of Tina Denmark may be, we can’t resist watching." Full Review

The New York Times

"The style of the show is so high camp there ought to be a sleepaway version. The actors give the material their big-voiced, big-haired all, but the antics often feel forced rather than delirious...As a kind of Theater of the Ridiculous, it isn’t ridiculous enough. In a decade dominated by reality TV, this satire loses fizz." Full Review

Entertainment Weekly

"This chintzy production suffers a tendency to have actors rush their lines and, at press time, still felt a bit under-rehearsed, which is a shame because there’s great stuff in this vaudevillian-inspired script. But over time, the proper balance might fall into place. To borrow a lyric from its title track, 'Ruthless!' stops just short of toothless." Full Review

New York Post

"10-year-old Tori Murray plays the psycho third-grader with panache: She can sing, and she’s funnier than most of the adults in the cast. Too bad the production, itself, isn’t as assured...A couple of other actors border on the amateurish — frustrating when they waste songs that, in the right hands, could stop a show." Full Review


"Paley helms a zippy and efficient production in the first half that becomes increasingly plodding as the actors claw and mug for every last laugh. Contemporary references (like Caitlyn Jenner) have been added to the script in an almost perfunctory manner. Ninety minutes is long enough for this fun diversion that doesn't quite rise to the level of a gut-busting so-bad-it's-good classic, try though it might." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"Everything we see after Tina 'pays' for what she's done strains visibly, and shows that excess, too, can be taken to excess. Except during the truly crazy final few minutes, the plot gets away from Paley and fails to capitalize on the endlessly inventive energy that fuels the show so capably early on...This production may lack all the guts it ought to have, but Tori Murray possesses them in spades." Full Review

Stage and Cinema

"'Ruthless!' offers few laughs, little suspense and no surprises...Mr. Paley is exaggerating the already exaggerated elements of musical farce to make fun of musical farce, and of musical theater in general. He’s trying to be corny on purpose. But his attempt at being corny is itself corny. He’s endeavoring to make fun of bad musicals with a musical that is worse than a lot of the ones he’s trying to make fun of." Full Review


"Don't be alarmed if this vicious musical with its vivaciously venomous score catapults you out of the theater on a high and keep you smiling even if it's into a sweltering summer night. Fear not that this deliriously campy show is only for the initiated or the intrepid...the story of how sweet little tap-happy Tina ruthlessly makes it to the top is one you may not want to miss, even if you relished it before...It still sings, snaps, and snarls all at the same time." Full Review


"This takes toddlers in tiaras to a whole new level, and it all combines into a hilarious musical comedy that you won’t want to miss...This is a devilishly delightful show, from the fun costumes to the playful and comedic score, and super talented cast. It’s hard to believe Tori Murray can store such a set of lungs in her tiny frame, and Maresca was so impressive holding the longest most perfect note I have ever heard on or off Broadway." Full Review

Local Theatre NY

"Masterful and high-energy performances were offered by all...If you want to catch a creepy-funny, tongue-in-cheek musical this summer, head to St. Luke’s in midtown for 'Ruthless.' There’s no intermission, so be sure to use the bathroom beforehand, and if you have any delicate sensibilities, leave them at the door." Full Review


for a previous production "If you're looking for a mentally challenging evening of theatre then this isn't it. 'Ruthless! The Musical' is not meant to make you think very deeply. It's meant to free your mind for an exhilarating experience where you can leave your problems at the door and settle in for some laughs." Full Review


for a previous production "Good parodies of show business are rare, but one cannot find a better one than the 1992 Off Broadway cult classic 'Ruthless! The Musical,' now enjoying a brief cabaret-style revival. Book and lyric writer Joel Paley jabs the satirical needle into every show-biz reference imaginable, making 'Ruthless! The Musical' a must-see." Full Review


for a previous production "In a remarkable Off-Broadway debut, Kim Maresca simply stuns as Tina’s mother...Paley’s mostly assured direction occasionally leads his actors to making bigger-than-necessary gestures, perhaps to compensate for the simple set and the ultra-minimal orchestra. But there’s no need for me to be ruthless in my criticism of 'Ruthless!' I haven’t smiled so much or laughed that hard since 'Something Rotten.'" Full Review

Great acting, Funny, Thought-provoking, Exquisite, Great staging

See it if You like absurd.

Don't see it if You only like traditional theater.

Clever, Refreshing, Masterful, Hilarious, Funny

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Funny, Hilarious, Entertaining, Delightful

See it if you love laughing and old movies

Don't see it if if you don't get movie scripts rewritten and campy

Raunchy, Original, Must see, Hilarious

See it if if you LOVE original, hilarous parodies...

Don't see it if if you don't appreciate raunchy, parodies...

Delightful, Clever, Hilarious, Great acting, Great singing

See it if You want to have a great time,and see some great singing and acting

Don't see it if You hate musicals

Absorbing, Great acting, Masterful, Must see

See it if Have kids

Don't see it if U don't like musicals

Entertaining, Funny, Hilarious, Resonant, Quirky

See it if you like parodies and great acting

Don't see it if you dislike silliness

Entertaining, Delightful, Clever, Hilarious, Must see

See it if Like "The Bad Seed" "All About Eve" , "Gypsy" or any other backstage musical!

Don't see it if Don't want to laugh. Or is you "hate musicals"

Entertaining, Funny, Delightful, Hilarious, Great singing

See it if Like to see a take off of campy moments of some, movies, or Broadway plays.

Don't see it if if don't like the use of people using offensive language.

Entertaining, Hilarious, Raunchy, Fluffy, Delightful

See it if you love classic camp - it doesn't get any sillier than this. But it had me doing so many spit takes, the people around me needed umbrellas.

Don't see it if you have low tolerance for over-the-top camp silliness. You gotta surrender to this one, and enjoy the wild ride.

Raunchy, Must see, Hilarious, Funny, Entertaining

See it if You want to laugh and if you enjoy making fun of stage moms.

Don't see it if You should see this. It is hilarious. Perhaps if you are bringing children under 8/9 it may not be appropriate.

Hilarious, Must see, Clever, Entertaining, Great acting

See it if You want to enjoy a fun filled, sometimes campy, sometimes silly, laugh out loud joy ride.

Don't see it if You are in such bad mood nothing could possibly help. You don't like fun filled, sometimes campy, sometimes silly, laugh out loud shows.

Clever, Funny, Hilarious

See it if If you love high camp

Don't see it if If you don't have a funny bone.

Funny, Great acting, Hilarious, Intelligent, Riveting

See it if You like comedies

Don't see it if You don't like comedies

Clever, Entertaining, Funny, Great acting, Hilarious

See it if If you love to laugh and be surprised. I've seen it 3 times since it first started in the 90's

Don't see it if you have no pulse

Clever, Hilarious, Great writing, Funny, Entertaining

See it if You like funny shows with talented kids

Don't see it if You mind small theatres

Campy, Hilarious, Entertaining, Quirky

See it if You like campy movies, satire, old-school show tunes, breaking the fourth wall, or laughing hysterically.

Don't see it if You aren't into musicals, prefer subtlety to over-the-top, or want something dramatic and thought-provoking.

Clever, Entertaining, Great acting, Hilarious, Great singing

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Don't see it if You can't do 90 minutes without intermission. The show feels a little long by the end.

Clever, Edgy, Funny, Hilarious, Quirky

See it if You like camp, over the top, yet charming, melodrama that cleverly spoofs The Bad Seed.

Don't see it if You can't let yourself go and just enjoy the delightful ridiculousness!

Entertaining, Funny, Hilarious, Fluffy, Delightful

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Delightful, Original, Must see, Funny, Entertaining

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Don't see it if You don't like campy musicals

Delightful, Entertaining, Enchanting, Great staging, Great singing



Clever, Entertaining, Hilarious, Original, Great singing

See it if You enjoy spoofs of musicals like Gypsy and Mame, or if you're a fan of the movie The Bad Seed.

Don't see it if You're offended by profanity.

Entertaining, Great acting, Funny

See it if you like small theaters and great acting.

Don't see it if you hate actors using "slang" and "curse"

Entertaining, Hilarious, Great singing

See it if You enjoy over the top camp.

Don't see it if You don't enjoy over the top camp

Cast & Creatives (11)