Ruthless! The Musical premiered Off Broadway in 1992 and was nominated for several Drama Desk Awards, winning for Outstanding Lyrics. After a successful run in New York, where it also won the New York Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Musical, the show had several professional productions, particularly in regional theater. J. Paley and Marvin Laird, the writer and composer respectively, are bringing the remake to the Theater Barn this January for a workshop, before mounting the revamped show in New York. The duo, who have been writing together for thirty six years, were delighted to give an interview about their latest collaboration.
What made you decide to revisit Ruthless?
“After initial runs in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and hundreds of regional theaters throughout the country, a Broadway producer has now optioned the play and wants to bring Ruthless! back to New York. He feels there is a wider audience for the piece than had been reached with the original 1993 Off-Broadway production. And, due to the recent popularity of shows like Toddlers and Tiara’s and Dance Moms, the subject of children (and the parents of children) in show business, seemed to warrant a closer look.”
What are the key differences you see between this version and the original?
“In light of how shows like Saturday Night Live and Family Guy have influenced our culture, we were intrigued by the idea of bringing our show into the 21st century, both in style and sensibility. One structural difference to emerge is instead of the traditional two-act format, we have streamlined the story into a fast-paced 90 minutes with no intermission.”
What made you decide to mount the pre-NY workshop at the Theater Barn?
“While working on the rewrite, our friend, producer Maxine Paul, suggested we’d get a truer sense of our progress by mounting a local production. Having successfully produced the show Pageant at the Theater Barn in 2004, she thought it would be a great place for the workshop. The fact that we live in Redding made the idea irresistible.”
What has the community theater workshop experience been like?
“The local talent pool is extraordinary! And we are extremely fortunate to be working with a cast that is not only talented, but also diligent in their commitment to the workshop production format, which by definition requires a willingness to adapt to changes on a daily basis. We’re also thrilled to be working with British designer, Peter Ling, whose contemporary approach to theatre is invaluable in helping us to reimage the show.”
Where do you go from here?
“Where we go from here remains to be seen. We are completely invested in the moment-to-moment process of this production. All we’re thinking about now is putting on a great show at the Theater Barn.”
Ruthless! will run from January 17th to the 27th, Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8pm, and Sundays at 2pm. Seating is cabaret style and doors will open one hour prior to curtain. Audience members are invited to bring food and drink to enjoy before the show and during intermission. Tickets are $26/adults and $22/students and seniors and can be purchased on their website, www.ridgefieldtheaterbarn.org.