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Greensburg Civic Theatre's 'Ruthless' is 'the stage mother of all musicals'

| Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
Rachel Nicely of Latrobe is Judy Denmark in Greensburg Civic Theatre's season-opening production, 'Ruthless, the Musical.'.
Rachel Nicely of Latrobe is Judy Denmark in Greensburg Civic Theatre's season-opening production, 'Ruthless, the Musical.'.
Bella Lathom of Trafford plays Tina Denmarkin Greensburg Civic Theatre's season-opening production, 'Ruthless, the Musical.'
Bella Lathom of Trafford plays Tina Denmarkin Greensburg Civic Theatre's season-opening production, 'Ruthless, the Musical.'

Greensburg Civic Theatre opens its 66th season with a show billed as “the stage mother of all musicals.”

“Ruthless,” with book and lyrics by Joel Paley with music by Marvin Laird, is a campy, irreverent show about an 8-year old wannabee star who will do anything to win the lead in the third-grade musical — including murdering the leading lady.

Director Jim Mikula of Ligonier says all of the characters in the musical comedy are extreme exaggerations of how “ruthless” performers can be to get what they want.

“The show makes fun of past shows everyone is familiar with — “Mame,” “Gypsy,” “A Chorus Line,” “Evita,” South of Music” — and many more,” says Mikula, who has wanted to direct the show since he first heard of it more than a decade ago.

The off-Broadway show premiered in New York City in 1992.

“No theaters in this area have done this show, and with just a cast of eight, it's fairly simple to mount and produce,” he says.

Rachel Nicely of Latrobe portrays Judy/Ginger, the mother of young aspiring actress Tina Denmark.

“She is a naive housewife with absolutely no talent,” Nicely says. “When Sylvia St. Croix (Dean Morris of Saltsburg) comes into her home wanting to become Tina's agent, Judy goes through a whirlwind of emotions. Throughout the musical, Judy finds out about her past and her future is ultimately changed.”

Nicely's role is a challenge, she says, because Judy changes so much through the show that “it's almost as though she is two different people.”

Isabelle “Bella” Lathom, 11, a fifth-grade student at Harrison Park Elementary School, portrays Tina. Her mother, Melissa Lathom, stage manager for the show, says Isabella was excited when she heard there was a child lead role in “Ruthless.”

“She went online and watched several videos of the show to gain a better understanding of the character of Tina. She was intrigued by this character because she is very different from Isabella's personality and any other character that she has ever played before,” Melissa says.

Bella's first role was as a cupcake and a flower in “Pinkalicious” at The Theater Factory in Trafford last fall.

The cast also includes Ellen Myers, Cindy Baltzer and Anne Cruzan, all of Latrobe; Keri Lucey of Murrysville and John Norgert of Rillton. Eric Barchiesi of Export is musical director and accompanist.

Following “Ruthless,” Greensburg Civic Theater's season will continue with two mainstage productions and two children's shows, according to Margaret Ryan, president of the theater's board of directors.

“We wanted to choose a season of shows that haven't been performed much in the area to give audiences something fresh and fun to enjoy,” she says. “We also look for shows that work well in our space at the Greensburg Garden and Civic Center to give our audiences the best possible experience.”

The season includes:

• Dec. 8-9, “‘Twas the Night before Christmas” by Ken Ludwig, his first kids' play, about a mouse and a spunky girl who make a trip to the North Pole to find out why Santa skipped their house last year.

• Feb. 9-11, “No Sex Please, We're British” by Anthony Marriott and Alistair Foot, a farce about a young couple whose mail order for Scandinavian glassware goes hilariously awry when they are inundated with pornography.

• March 16-17, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by Roald Dahl, adapted by Richard R. George, is the story about young Charlie Bucket's adventure in Willy Wonka's chocolate factory.

• May 4-6, “Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery” by Ken Ludwig — “Who else could transform ‘The Hounds of Baskerville' into a murderously fun adventure?” Ryan says.

“We are an all-volunteer organization that is always looking for new volunteers of all skill levels to keep this amazing tradition going,” she says, “so we hope people will contact us at to find out how they can get involved.”

Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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