‘Ruthless!’ Hilarity, macabre, backstage jokes enliven musical

Aelsa Butler, Culture Editor

To what lengths would an artist go for time in the spotlight? In IVCC’s fall production of “Ruthless! The Musical!”, a third-grader named Tina will stop at nothing – not even murder — to get the lead role in her school play.

“It never fails to make me laugh out loud, and that’s because the premise is so outrageous,” director and choreographer Don Grant Zellmer explains, adding, “What makes the show outrageous is everyone’s reactions to the situations: not at all what you’re expecting. It goes completely the other way.”

Student actresses Hillari Behrens and Clarissa Gerrard agree. Gerrard uses her character, Tina’s teacher, Miss Thorn, as an example. “How often do you see a thirdgrade teacher singing about teaching third grade and hating it? A third-grader commits a murder and thinks it’s the best thing in the world! Anybody who comes will just love the jokes.”

“It is such a riot,” Behrens agrees. “I’ve been in a lot of shows, and this is the most fun I’ve ever had.” The musical is also “an homage to old movies that were very ‘campy,’” Zellmer says, such as “The Bad Seed,” “All About Eve,” and “Valley of the Dolls.”

“The writer says in the beginning that every cast member, every person working on this show, needs to watch these movies, because that’s the feel [they were] going for. ‘All about Eve’ and ‘Valley of the Dolls’ are both what they call ‘backstage movies,’ where they’re about show business, and this show is about show business.”

Actress and community member Karen Lesman, who plays Tina’s grandmother, says the plot contains many insider references for theater-lovers. “I love the play on all the other plays! This play is great because an actor or actress is going to so appreciate all the theater references, and the regular audience is just going to be horrified and laugh out loud. So you have a little something for everybody.”

Audiences can only see “Ruthless!” this year in two places: off-Broadway in New York City or here at IVCC. Zellmer said.

“Its run began this past summer and it was scheduled to close in September, so the rights were being granted to different production companies, and you either had to be a college or a professional company to get it,” he explained. But when the run was extended, the rights were pulled, so IVCC was forced to consider a different show.

Last minute, however, he got the green light to go ahead with the production. “The afternoon of our very first table read, our very first rehearsal for the other show, we get notified that we were the only production company in the country to be granted the rights.” Zellmer is extremely excited about the opportunity, joking that audiences get a deal, too. “Anybody who wants to see it can pay $150 for a ticket to go see it in New York, or pay $20 and come here.”

“Ruthless! The Musical!” runs Nov. 12-14 at 8 p.m. and Nov. 15 at 2 p.m. Tickets are available at the door. General admission is $20 and senior admission is $15, and IVCC students get in free when they show their student ID.

More information on the current production and additional information on IVCC’s fine arts program is available on Facebook at IVCC Fine Arts.