What do you get when you take an aging-actress-turned-talent agent, add to that a Stepford Wife-like mother with an eight-year old daughter who will stop at nothing—even murder, to get her way? The first act of Ruthless, a musical produced and directed by Mills senior Lauren White.
White, an Intermedia Arts major, said that she got the idea to put this particular show on as part of her senior project over the summer, after reminiscing about her role in the show as a middle school student.
“I was listening to a CD with the music from the show over the summer,” said White. “I got really excited and started singing and dancing and decided to do it as my senior project.”
The first student drama production at Mills this year, and the only one since the demise of the Mills Dramatic Arts Department, Ruthless packed the house to capacity on opening night. The crowd included students, faculty, and parents as well as the president of the college.
The leading role of Judy Denmark was brilliantly played by former Mills student Sarah Weinstein, who now attends San Francisco State University. Weinstein showed her array of talent as first the oblivious, subservient and robotic mother and housewife with an incredible vocal range in Act I. By act II, Judy, is Ginger a Broadway singer who left behind her suburban family and home after realizing her identity as the daughter of the famous actress Ruth del Marco. She convincingly moves from freakishly obsessed pageant Mom to a self-centered stage performer.
The supporting roles of Sylvia St. Croix and Tina Denmark, played by Kasey P. Lindsay and Tess Vreeland respectively proved strong as well. Sylvia St. Croix poses as a talent agent interested in representing the young Tina, who holds promise and is up for the lead in her school play. After Tina kills off her competition, it comes to light that Sylvia is actually Ruth del Marco, Judy’s biological mother who abandoned her years ago. This is when the story takes off, as we begin to understand that show business is indeed ruthless, and that those who have a taste of fame will allow nothing to stand in their way. Sylvia abandoned Judy for fame, Tina killed for it, Judy follows in her mothers footsteps and abandons Tina and Sylvia wants Tina, so that she can live vicariously through her potential fame. The mix of satire and raw talent kept the applause and laughter at such heights that the actor’s had to pause frequently and wait for it to end.
The show was performed by the Mills Players, the drama club on campus, and ran four shows last weekend and due to its popularity, have added a fifth show. Originally written by Joal Paley, Ruthless was originally produced off Broadway in New York City.
Although White produced the show, which she will make a video out of for her final project, she stressed all of the Mills students present and past that made the production possible.
Freshwoman Kimi Taira played the piano for the entire show and was “our savior” according to many cast members.
“She listened to me sing Unkie’s Munkle and she wrote the music for it,” said Lindsay.
“She wrote music for our voices when the notes were too high,” said Vreeland.
The choreographer, Mills alumna Jez Lee, did a lot of improvising herself according to cast and crew.
“You’d ask her a question, and she’d think about it for minute and the next thing you know, she’d re-choreograph the piece,” said Sara Laufer who played journalist Emily Block.
The cast and crew have suffered one loss, despite on otherwise gleeful experience. Pippi, one of two goldfish who sat on the piano as part of the set died suddenly on opening night.
The final performance of Ruthless will be held in Lisser Theater this Sunday Nov. 21 at 2 p.m.