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The Ruby Dolls deliver a show which discusses incredibly serious topics at breakneck speed with so much theatricality that it never feels like a lecture.
The show begins outside the door, as the Dolls welcome you in and seat you at saloon style tables. They chat, they joke, and generally make you feel that you are the guest of some particularly glamorous society hostesses. As they 'invent' the plot of the musical, you are drawn along into what is at first madcap silliness and finally biting feminist satire.
The performances are stunning. Tara Siddall's baddie is performed with such evident relish that it’s impossible not to enjoy, while Jessica Sedler as the love interest is so endearing she works as both as a pastiche and as a serious character. Rebecca Shanks (I can't tell you who she plays without spoiling one of the jokes) takes some very well-observed stabs at the kinds of characters she is parodying, and Susanna Fiore expertly switches between the silly and the sinister.
The music is a real treat--plenty of the Dolls' signature close harmonies, some really beautiful solos, and enough catchy female-female duets to keep musical theatre schools across the country happy. The vocal performances are strong, and the four Dolls have such different voices, from Sedler’s powerful belting to Shanks’ delicate soprano, that it is a pleasure to hear the different elements they bring to the music.
Abigail Burdess' lyrics are something special. There are Gilbert and Sullivan style patter songs, complete with the silliest of rhymes, ballads (also complete with the silliest of rhymes), and endless clever puns. Where the script really comes into its own, though, is when the play starts to get political. A particular highlight is a sung response to the people who feel we no longer need feminism. It makes very good points--and it rhymes. The play doesn't really pull any punches, however, and by the end this almost becomes a weakness, as the conflict between the incredibly heavy content and the glib delivery becomes just a shade too much. However, it generally manages to keep the pitch just right. The Ruby Dolls deliver a show which discusses incredibly serious topics at breakneck speed with so much theatricality that it never feels like a lecture.