Dolly Diamond Is Ruthless! About Securing Her Spotlight

Dolly Diamond Is Ruthless! About Securing Her Spotlight
Image: Dolly Diamond. Image by @3fatesmedia

You might think that glittering cabaret star Dolly Diamond, with her sparklier-than-life stage presence and sassy line in salty clap-backs, would never deign to share the limelight. But you’d be wrong. 

When she takes to Melbourne’s Alex Theatre stage in St Kilda to depict overbearing theatre agent Sylvia St. Croix in the magnificently camp musical spoof Ruthless!, she’ll gladly stand shoulder to shoulder with her fellow cast members. “I’d never want to be in the chorus,” she says. “I couldn’t do that anymore and I never really enjoyed it, but I don’t mind sharing as long as you give me my moment.” 

Luckily, Sylvia gets plenty of moments in a wild show – with a book by Joel Paley and music by Marvin Laird – that plays off classic Broadway productions like Mame and movies like All About Eve, with their show-stopping dames and out-there plot twists, only dialled up to delirious. Dolly is joined by Chloe Halley and Luisa Oro sharing the role of wannabe starlet Tina Denmark, with producer Britni Leslie as her pushy stage mom and Emma Clair Waxman as scathing critic Lita Encore, who also happens to be Tina’s grandmother, and Stephanie Astrid John as the teacher, Miss Thorn, tasked with bringing Tina’s high school musical debut to life. 

Expect double crossings, unmasked identities and dastardly plots a go-go in a show that contains the hit numbers ‘Born to Entertain’ and, ironically, ‘I Hate Musicals’. Not everybody makes it to the final curtain alive. “It’s ridiculously camp, but it’s also so well written, brilliantly pieced together, and the music’s great,” Dolly says. “I’m a big fan of musicals like Victor/Victoria and Rocky Horror that really allow you to play with unique characters you can have fun with. I live for laughter. I was probably never going to get cast in Les Mis.”

Dolly Diamond. Image by @3fatesmedia

Which makes the gloriously absurd code-switching of Ruthless! the ideal show for Dolly, who first caught it off-Broadway and fell head over towering heels for its frenetic flipping of who’s really who and what they’re up to. When she recently saw it again while performing in Manchester, England, it felt like destiny calling. “I was immediately like, ‘Oh my god, I’d love to play the role of Sylvia’.”

Having tread the boards as the eponymous lead in Annie as a young lass, Dolly had wondered if her days of musical theatre were in the past. “Perhaps with the right lighting I could still do the role now, but I think I’m beginning to believe that that might not be true,” she says. “You’ve got to come to grips with reality, and I’m almost there.”

Dolly needs to be centre stage, spotlight trained on her. “As I’ve gotten older, I haven’t bothered auditioning for musicals,” she says. “I produce my own stuff, because that way I know I’ll always get the lead.”

But when she spotted Stage Bug Productions announcing their new production at the Alex Theatre, only the second time it’s been staged in Australia, Dolly knew she had to seize the day and step into Sylvia’s stilettos. Good thing she reached out, too, because Britni Leslie already had her heart set on casting Dolly as Sylvia, in a twist of pure stage magic. “It doesn’t feel like that happens very often in your career, so of course I was interested,” she says.

Leslie is a powerhouse both on stage and behind the scenes. “I don’t think I’ve ever done anything where the producer is also one of the leads, and you really make a rod for your own back when you do, but my god, has she proven herself to be absolutely incredible. She was definitely meant to play Judy Denmark.”

The backstage buzz during rehearsals is terrific. “There’s an incredible six-piece band performing with us and there’s a lot of underscoring in the show, which I’m not used to,” Dolly says. “I demand that absolutely everything around me is silent so the audience can hang off my every word, but the music adds to the drama.”

Everyone’s in it together, Dolly insists. “Everybody gets a moment,” she says. “I’m listening to the rest of the cast in rehearsals and, Jesus Christ, they can sing. I know how to perform, but your vocal cords are a muscle, and it’s really brought my game up. You forget how much work goes into a musical, though believe me, I’m remembering now.” 

Dolly’s ready to belt out Sylvia’s show-stopping numbers, including ‘Talent’ and ‘I Want the Girl’. “I’m feeling so refreshed and passionate about the show,” she says. “I love what I do, and I won’t stop doing it, as much as some people might want me to. Petitions have been signed. So it’s great to land a role like Sylvia now that I’m in my late, ummmmm, late.

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