Monday, November 9, 2015

Review of "Dames at Sea"

Perky.  Wholesome.  Tuneful.  Small.  Fun.  These are words that come to mind after seeing the delightful Broadway version of the musical, Dames at Sea.  Originally produced Off-Broadway in 1968 (and starring Bernadette Peters in her first New York musical), the show is a spoof of those 1930’s movie musical extravaganzas.  Think 42nd Street in a pared down production and you have the essence of this diminutive—only six performers—but winning musical.

Wide-eyed ingénue Ruby (Eloise Kropp) has just arrived in The Big Apple from Utah looking to make it on The Great White Way.  She immediately snags a minor role; meets Dick (Cary Tedder) a handsome sailor who just happens to pen marvelous show tunes; tangles with the egotistical star Mona Kent (Lesli Margherita); and placates the harried producer Hennessey (John Bolton).  There’s also the requisite secondary couple (Mara Davi as Joan and Danny Gardner as Lucky) that provide laughs and diversions from the central plot.  However, catastrophe looms around every corner.  Will the curtain go up on the seemingly ill-fated show?  Will Ruby and Dick finally get together?  Will Ruby become a star?  Will there be one great finale?  I think you can guess the answers.

Randy Skinner does a superb job as both choreographer and director.  As choreographer he has created one entertaining tap dance routine after another.  If you are a tap dance aficionado then Dames at Sea is a show for you.  The only disappointment is with just a handful of performers the production numbers, while energetic, challenging and exceedingly cheerful, appear modest and a bit of a letdown.  As director, Skinner keeps the pace fast afoot.  He lampoons the overwrought musical spectaculars with a loving, knowing wink.

The score by George Haimsohn, Robin Miller and Jim Wise is refreshingly tuneful.  They are evocative of the Busby Berkeley inspired pageantries the musical so nimbly spoofs.  They include the jaunty, "It's You;” the frolicsome, "Broadway Baby;” the heartfelt ballad, “Raining In My Heart;" and rousing finale, "Star Tar.”

The cast is led by fresh-faced Eloise Kropp as the starry-eyed Ruby.  She is delectably charismatic with high powered dancing feet.   Cary Tedder is engaging as Dick, Ruby’s would-be love interest.  He has a captivating personality, handsome good looks, and an aw-shucks appeal.  Lesli Margherita, coming off an extended run as the despicable mother in Matilda, is equally boorish and conniving as the self-centered Mona Kent.  She adds a little hot-blooded spiciness to the virtuous cast.  Mara Davi as Joan and Danny Gardner as Lucky make an attractive and bewitching twosome.  John Bolton brings an experienced hand as the stressed out showman Hennesey and a sprightliness as the Captain.

Dames at Sea, perfectly adorned in the jewel box size Helen Hayes Theatre.

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