“Just think, Ruby. Just this morning you were on a bus with nothing but a pair of tap shoes in your suitcase and a prayer in your heart. And now you’re a big Broadway star, the toast of Manhattan.”
—Dick, the Dick Powell-esque love interest of Ruby, the Ruby Keeler-esque, star of Dames at Sea
This current production of Dames at Sea, book and lyrics by George Haimsohn and Robin Miller and music by Jim Wise, is the musical’s Broadway debut! This snappy little show got its start at the venue that created New York’s Off-Off-Broadway scene, Caffe Cino at 31 Cornelia Street. The 1966 production, subtitled Golddiggers Afloat, starred newcomer Bernadette Peters. It then transferred to Off-Broadway two years later for a successful run.
This six-character musical is a spoof of the splashy, flashy 1930s Busby Berkeley-style movie musicals. “Dames” follows the typical and improbable plotline of many movie musicals of the era: a chorus girl, newly-arrived off the bus from the Midwest to the Big Apple; she steps into a Broadway role and becomes a star.
The intimate nature of the Helen Hayes Theater is perfectly suited for the October 2015 Broadway premiere of this tap-dance crazy show. One distracting fact of the performance was the microphones worn by the performers. Perhaps they were more visible to us because we were seated so close to the stage. Having those instruments, however small, smack dab in the center of the performers’ hairline was a strange sight!
This is a quibble, though. If you like tap dancing you will love Dames at Sea. It is full of high spirits, campy fun, and clever turns-of-phrase throughout. The music may remind you of songwriters from Broadway’s Golden Era; that is the point of a spoof! Blues number “That Mister Man of Mine” owes much to Jerome Kern. “It’s You” is a sophisticated name-dropping song in the style of Noel Coward. And “The Beguine” makes us think of George Gershwin’s tunes.
Randy Skinner is at the helm, directing and choreographing this feather-light musical. Eloise Kropp shines as the star of the show, Ruby, the young dancer with dreams of Broadway success as her goal. In the role of Mona, the tyrannical leading lady that Ruby fills-in for, Lesli Margherita vamps across the stage, relishing every moment. Mara Davi is Joan, Ruby’s more seasoned and feistier, newly-found, chorus-girl friend; she sings and dances beautifully.
As for the male side of the cast, John Bolton performs nimble comic double duty as Mona’s smitten Captain and the harried director of the play within a play, Hennesey. Cary Tedder and Danny Gardner, bring humor, style and good looks to the roles of Dick and Lucky, the sailor pals as well as Ruby and Joan’s love interests, respectively.
Keep in mind that our Five Squares and a Circle Tour stops in Times Square, the heart of the Broadway theater district. Get a feel for the Great White Way as part of this Tour!