The Sunday Giveaway: Two tickets to Ruthless Off Broadway!

The great thing about being in New York for a couple of decades and seeing lots of shows is that you get to see the first breakout performances of people who become stars.

It’s happened to me a bunch.  I’m watching someone on stage and they’re doing something incredible and I just get this, “Who is this guy/gal?” feeling in my stomach and then flash forward a few years later and a star is born.

Kristin Chenoweth in Steel Pier, Lea Michele in Ragtime, Megan Mullally in Grease . . . and more.

The Off Broadway musical Ruthless, which played the Variety Arts Theater downtown  (which has since passed away) when I was in college, had a few of those performances.  In addition to starring Laura Bell Bundy, a couple of other now bold faced names were in the cast including Britney Spears and Natalie Portman (I know, I know, you’ve never heard of ’em).

And now Ruthless is being revived Off Broadway, and I can’t help but wonder . . . what star-to-be is in the show now?

If you don’t know Ruthless, it’s a campy cult show about an eight year old girl (and her mom) who will do anything to star in her school play.  And I’m sure you can only imagine what happens from there.

But why imagine, when one of you can go for free on this Sunday’s Giveaway!

And here’s how you enter to win . . .

Tell me a performance you saw of someone who became somebody.  And it doesn’t have to be a big time Hollywood star.  I’m still talking about when I saw Brian d’Arcy James in Titanic.

Describe your favorite breakout performance and you could win two tickets to Ruthless!  Good luck!


(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below! Email Subscribers, click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)

– – – – –


– Looking for a job, or want to tell the world about your upcoming show?  Do it in our forum!  Click here.

– Listen to Podcast Episode #37 with Spring Awakening book writer and lyricist Steven Sater! Click here.

– Follow Spring Awakening‘s journey to opening night!  Click here to read The Associate Producer’s Perspective.



  • Ben Shenkman in Proof now featured in Royal Pains and just wrapped Fish in the Dark.



  • Jared W says:

    I saw the 2nd to last preview of “The Book of Mormon,” and like everyone else I was blown away by Andrew Rannells and Josh Gad. But I also remember saying, “That girl playing Nabalungi is doing really great work up there.” And who won the show’s only acting Tony? Nikki M. James for playing Nabalungi!

  • Brian says:

    Peter Frechette in Eastern Standard. I saw it on Broadway and amazed at his comic timing!

  • Larry & Sherri Segall says:

    Al Pacino In “Indian Wants The Bronx”, By Israel Hurvitz, Public Theater,

  • Larry & Sherri Segall says:

    Al Pacino first time out, Indian Wants The Bronx, By Israel Hurvitz

  • Solange De Santis says:

    Norbert Leo Butz and Sherie Rene Scott in The Last Five Years.

  • Lana Matrai says:

    Kelly Clarkson, who was the first winner on “American Idol.” She is now a huge superstar.

  • Noa Saunders says:

    Kerstin Anderson as Peter Pan in Burlington Vermont as a Sophomore in high school.

  • Karl P says:

    Celia Keenan-Bolger, in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. She was superb in the midst of an outstanding cast!

  • Candace says:

    Matthew Morrison in Hairspray. He was amazingly at ease and fit the role of Link Larkin perfectly; I knew he was here to stay.

  • Sue Cohen says:

    Idina Menzel as Maureen at NYTW in Rent, and then 5 times on Broadway!

  • The gorgeous Ali Stroker, who I directed in a small community piece in 2009 and is now on Broadway in spring awakening!! Go Ali!

  • Audrey Lang says:

    All of the orphans from the recent revival of Annie! My first thoughts were Lilla Crawford and Taylor Richardson, who both brought such honesty to the role of Annie, and who have now both been in movies (Into the Woods and Jack of the Red Hearts, respectively, probably among other things!). However, I then thought of the other girls who have also gone on to do other things–for example, Brooklyn Shuck, who was an adorable Kate when I saw the show, went on to play the lead in Matilda!

  • David Rigano says:

    My crush on Kristen Bell started when I saw her as Becky Thatcher in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

  • Allison M says:

    My moment was probably seeing Andrew Rannells and Josh Gad in Book of Mormon. Though I remembered Josh Gad from Spelling Bee!

  • Howard Levitsky says:

    Very few people in NYC had heard of Jessie Mueller before her appearance in the 2012 revisal of ON A CLEAR DAY. But after she blew the roof off with her performance of a spectacular arrangement of Every Night at Seven, I, along with almost everyone else in the audience, applauded like mad and then picked my jaw up off of the floor and started flipping around in my program to find out WHO IS THAT???!!! Obviously the same thing happened to Powers That Be in the biz because she has been working steadily and brilliantly ever since and got her (first) Tony for BEAUTIFUL.

    I’m thrilled that I was one of the first few hundred people to have “discovered” her.

  • David H. says:

    I saw Barbra Streisand in I Can Get It For You Wholesale (I know that really dates me, but it is what it is) and it was clear that she was going to go a lot farther, though who knew?.
    Happened to see Ruthless yesterday, and it was great. It is 20 at 20 week so anyone in the NYC vicinity and not doing anything one night should take advantage of it.

  • Laurie B. says:

    If a psychic had seen 25th Annual Putnum County Spelling Bee with me and had told me that of all the cast Jesse Tyler Ferguson would be the one to end up starring in a hit TV show I wouldn’t have believed them! But low and behold he is! And not just on Modern Family….he’s a guest judge on SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE. Man I wish I had gotten my playbill autographed!

  • Lin-Manuel Miranda, In The Heights

  • Nancy Paris says:

    Bobby Lopez was a high school student in an after school theater program. He did original music for the production (I was choreographer ) and it was so exceptional that I told his parents I knew I’d see his work one day on Broadway.

  • Ellen Orchid says:

    I first saw Josh Grisetti in “Candida” at the Irish Repertory Theater when I was working there as an intern in the winter of 2010. He was a marvelous, charismatic young character actor. Since I’m also an MD (but with a theater fascination) I was asked to take a look at his pharynx when he had a sore throat. I wrote a prescription which helped him. Imagine my delight when I went to see “It Shoulda Been You” and there was Josh Grisetti singing in a great comic role and capturing the audience’s collective heart. He was great in a great cast. He is a marvelous talent whose star, I think, will continue to soar. And he has a really nice pharynx.

  • Janet kowal says:

    Jane Monheit as Rizzo in Grease when she was in 8th grade. It was obvious she was talented and would go far. Then again as a senior in high school as Marian in Music Man.

  • Wendy H says:

    I was impressed by Jeremy Jordan when he went on as Drew in Rock of Ages for Constantine Maroulis. Not too long after that he was the leading man in both Bonnie and Clyde and Newsies, and keeps popping up on TV and in film – Smash, The Last Five Years and now Supergirl.

  • Tom Hartman says:

    Marlee Maitlin in Children of A Lesser God, playing the younger of the two deaf women — the rebellious teen, not the lead – in a 90 seat theatre in Chicago’s Roger Park. She had this blistering intensity and strength that overshadowed a few of the more seasoned actors in the cast. I think she was still in high school at the time.

  • Rosie says:

    Jefferson Mays. First at Playwrights Horizons on I Am My Own Wife

  • Michael L. says:

    I saw little Sarah Jessica Parker as the title character in Annie on Broadway – and got her autograph on the Playbill, too!

  • Eddie S. says:

    Jan Maxwell in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. In just a few scenes she stole the spotlight from the cast and the car!

  • Eva Mack says:

    hoping to see someone soon

  • Geri Weinstein says:

    I saw Sierra Boggess in The Little Mermaid when the show first opened in Denver before it went onto Broadway.

  • Lynne says:

    I saw Gary Sinise and John Malkowich in Balm in Gilead at the Circle Rep – probably late 1970s or early 1980s. They both became well known movie/TV stars.

  • Alexandria H says:

    May 2009, Andy Mientus as Hanschen in the National Tour of Spring Awakening in Boston

  • Mark Kaufman says:

    In February, 1964, just 3 months after JFK was assassinated (and I was a Bronx high school junior) for $2 with a discount coupon, I sat in the last row of the balcony of the Henry Miller Theatre, and saw ENTER LAUGHING (Joe Stein, who adapted FIDDLER, adapted this show from a memoir by Carl Reiner!). The depression-era play concerned a young man, played by a little-known 29 year old named Alan Arkin. Yes, the Arkin who went on to star in many great films, from CATCH-22, to his Oscar-winning performance in LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE. Also in the cast were Vivian (GUYS & DOLLS) Blaine and Irving Jacobson (who was soon to be Sancho Panza in MAN OF LA MANCHA). It was my first Broadway show……from there on I was hooked on the theater.

  • Rick Hinkson says:

    visiting london the first time in 1977, seeing paul scofield as volpone at the national theatre. scofield was great, but the young man playing mosca stole the show right out from under him. this was 5 years before the young man won an oscar for GANDHI: ben kingsley.


  • Rafi Levavy says:

    In 1994, Das Barbecu which had both J.K. Simmons and Carolee Carmello in the cast, both of whom went on to do great things. (The other members of the cast were pretty awesome as well.)

  • EllenFD says:

    Because I was a big Hal Holbrook fan as a teen, I went to see him in DOES A TIGER WEAR A NECKTIE? I had a front-row seat and while I enjoyed Holbrook’s performance, I was unexpectedly mesmerized by a force of nature in the form of a wild teen in a correctional facility. That was Al Pacino. I didn’t even mind being spat on during his intense speeches.

  • John Dallal says:

    Bernadette Peters in Curly McDimple almost 50 years ago

  • Noah P says:

    Nina Arianda – Venus in Fur

  • In 1967, Dustin Hoffman, a 30 year old actor nailed the re-creation of reality of a presumably 22 year old Ivy League Grad Benjamin Braddock in his circumstance. Thank you Mike Nichols, Buck Henry, Calder Willingham, Charles Webb etc., for the creation of this incisive satire of the California Nouveau Riche (a microcosm of the American Nouveau Riche?) that introduced Mr. Hoffman to the American moviegoer.

  • Dana Vance says:

    I saw little Brittany Spears in Ruthless downtown many years ago.

  • Mary Ann says:

    It’s so much fun looking back through my Playbills and seeing who was in the shows we have seen. The first play I saw with my husband was Six Degrees of Separation at Lincoln Center, and then-unknown Laura Linney was in the cast. I point these things out to my daughter now because she is in the process of applying to colleges as a theater major. After seeing performances of Ruthless at Broadway in Bryant Park, I’m sure some of these stars will go on to do great things!

  • Gary says:

    Denis O’hare in “Take Me Out” at The Public Theater. When I saw the performance I said- if this moves to
    Broadway he’s winning a Tony! (It moved – he won!)

  • Christa deSanti says:

    John Malkovich in Death of a Salesman in 1984. For the first part of the play I kept thinking, what is this guy doing, he’s just sitting there on the bed breathing. And by doing nothing he kept pulling my focus…wake up, you’re on stage with Dustin Hoffman who’s chewing the scenery. But at the right moment he exploded and he was so much more effective because of how he played the first few scenes.
    I’ll also never forget seeing Richard Gere in Bent in 1980. The image of Richard and David Duke standing side-by-side facing the audience working themselves into an organism will stay with me forever.
    Denis Leary in No Cure For Cancer in 1992 (who is this crazy man chain smoking on stage and screaming every word)….James Corden in One Man, Two Guvnors (I never laughed so loud in the theatre)….okay I’ll stop, but there are others.

  • ECP says:

    Fandom can be such a peculiar thing. 1998, off-Broadway. “Stupid Kids.” (Directed by Michael Mayer, but that’s a major “discovery” for another time.) Keith Nobbs was electric. He managed to be part of the small ensemble and standout riveting at the same time. Decades later, I grin whenever his name appears in credits on screens big and small, and in Playbills. So pleased “my discovery” has crafted a career in the performing arts.

  • Joe Marino says:

    How fun to look back at the shows of yesteryear. Just perusing the first 10 shows I saw in the 80’s gave me Karen Ziemba in 42nd Street, John Goodman in Big River, Donna Murphy in Edwin Drood, Lilias White in Dreamgirls (revival). The one that really got me going though was Jodi Benson in Smile. Lord, that woman can sing!!

  • Kyrsten Louchen says:

    I saw Phillipa Soo play Anne Egerman in a summer stock production of A Little Night Music last summer in the Berkshires before Hamilton was at the public and now she’s a broadway belle.
    It was a wonderful production, Kate Baldwin played Charlotte and her real life husband Graham Rowat played her on stage husband. Every performance blew me away!

  • Ben B says:

    One of my first Broadway shows as a child was Big. There was a kid in the ensemble who stood out more than anyone else… Spencer Liff! He was a wonderful child performer, then continued to amaze in productions like Cry Baby and now is choreographing beautiful works like Spring Awakening!

  • copa says:

    The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee offered up a bunch, some stayed on Broadway and some went to Hollywood. Replacement Josh Gad is probably been the most successful (most recently seen on cable co-starring with BILLY CRYSTAL); Jesse Tyler Ferguson (TV’s Modern Family); and others. Still here in NYC are Jose Llana (now in THE KING AND I); Celia Keenan-Bolger, etc. THAT show was like a Star-making factory and they were all portraying KIDS. Can U imagine if they had actually cast kids the right age, so many careers would have been squandered.

  • Jeremy Jordan and Laura Osnes in Bonnie and Clyde!

  • Also, I grew up watching Steven Boyer perform in high school and community theatre in Columbus, OH!

  • Roger Rifkin says:

    In the spring of 1976, I saw the Richard Rodgers/Sheldon Harnick musical REX. It was sadly, not a success. I liked it. It was an historical piece that dealt with the history of Henry the eighth and his six wives. Nicol Williamson and the wonderful Penny Fuller were the show’s stars. In the supporting role of Mary was a then unknown Glenn Close. She had amazing presence and I loved her gutsy portrayal of the doomed Mary. I knew this talented young woman was going to become a star. I’m so thrilled and honored that I got to see her at the beginning of what would become a brilliant, illustrious career.

  • Matthew Turkle says:

    Easy! I saw the 2011 Godspell revival featuring none other than future 2 time Emmy Award winner, Uzo Aduba! I couldn’t take my eyes off of here, what a presence. Honorable mention goes to Lindsay Mendez who was also in that company and has now begun getting lots of notice.

  • I saw Vanessa Williams play an electrifying Anita in “West Side Story” at Syracuse University Musical Theatre before she ever became – and then unbecame – Miss America. We knew when we saw her that she was going places…the whole cast was excellent (as most master program productions are) – but she stood out like neon in the dark!
    I would love to see “Ruthless” again – such a, well, RUTHLESSLY funny show. Also the last show I saw with my parents before my Dad passed away, so it’s got some sentimental appeal for me. It’s hard to imagine anybody being sentimental about “Ruthless,” right?!

  • fran says:

    Jonathan Groff blew me away when I saw him in Spring Awakening back when it started at the Atlantic Theater. I knew his talent was going to be recognized.

    One of the first shows I worked on in NY was an Off Broadway production of Thieves Carnival in either ’73 or ’74. I did props and wardrobe. I had crocheted a scarf when I was in college and over the years it had stretched out. I wrapped it twice around my neck and I still tripped on it. One of the actors in the show was Keith McDermott who was a lot taller than me and he liked the scarf. When the show closed, I washed it and gave it to him. Three or four years later, he was hired as a replacement for one of the leads in Equus. I’ve always imagined him wearing my scarf backstage. At least my scarf made it to Broadway!

  • I was very young…Very young and saw Chita Rivera and Carol Lawrence in Westside Story
    original Broadway Cast. My Dad took me to everything. Godspell, Hair,Two by Two with Danny Kaye in a cast…I was a lucky girl!

  • Lewis R. says:

    It was nearly forty years ago at a small B’way house where a venerable old rep. co. was trying desperately to hang on to its former reputation for excellence. The bill was two lengthy one-acts by Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller. My usual plan is to be in my seat at least twenty minutes before curtain to allow time to peruse the program. This particular night I was running very late so my butt hit the cushion just as the lights went to half! No time to even open the program. The production of the Williams play was first rate and the lead actor was Tony Musante, who went on to have a major career. (It’s easy for some folks to forget that Tony LoBianco and Tony Musante were both working at the same time and both known for very fine work. Musante died a couple of years ago … but LoBianco is still with us … and working, I believe.) The standout performance, however, was the unknown actress playing the sole female role. SHE WAS A REVELATION! Words like “blew me away” and “phenomenal talent” come to mind! That play ended the first half and I headed for the lobby to get into that program and find out more about her! She had been blonde and “over the top of her blouse” (which often proves a deadly combination) but not this time: that talent was indisputable. As I entered the lobby for intermission, a dear and irrepressible and very funny friend called out to me … and there went my resolve to look at my program! We just yammered away for the full fifteen minutes and I hurried back for the Arthur Miller play. Again, the acting was high caliber with the already established John Lithgow in a lead… and a smallish role being handled by a slender young actress, who still made an indelible impression. I remember thinking that the theatrical company producing these two plays could still take notice of truly talented young performers and was very fortunate to have found two of them! Then, there was that brief flash when the young actress did something remarkable and I suddenly felt struck by a bolt of lightning! She was the same young woman who had played Flora in 27 Wagons Full of Cotton and was now playing Patricia in A MEMORY OF TWO MONDAYS! She had only one prior (and short lived) B’way credit. I got on the ‘phone late that same evening and started calling many friends who loved live theatre.
    “See this young woman in this show or live to regret having missed her! Yes, her name is Meryl Streep. Yes, it’s an unusual name … but you’re gonna see a lot more of her!”
    I was still calling about her days later! How wonderful, also, to marvel at “my discovery” years later!

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