Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Broadway Review: Dames at Sea

An Ocean of Dancing Doesn’t Wash Away Not Having a Bernadette Peters
By Lauren Yarger
Written as a parody of Busby-Berkeley grad Gold Digger musicals from the 1920s, Dames at Sea saw a life half a decade ago Off Broadway starring then newcomer Bernadette Peters.

It never had a Broadway run until now – and there probably is a reason.  It needs Bernadette Peters – or someone like her who has the ability to pull off a silly, over-the-top kind of role. The current production, starring Eloise Kropp Ruby, a girl who arrives in New York and steps into her first Broadway musical – a la 42nd Street – falls short. Kropp is well meaning, but doesn’t have enough oomph to pull it off. It’s not her fault. The silliness of plot (book by George Haimsohn and Robin Miller, who also write the lyrics) requires a big name for a Broadway run. It’s that simple.

This doesn’t mean the show isn’t entertaining, however. It is. As long as you throw that plot right out the window and sit back to enjoy the dancing, choreographed by Randy Skinner, who also directs.

Ruby, fresh off the bus from Utah, does about a 30-second audition and lands her first Broadway role in Dames at Sea, starring diva Mona Kent (Lesli Margherita). She’s offered a pace to stay by castmate Joan (Mara Davi) so what more could a starving showgirl want? Oh, wait for it  – romance! Enter handsome sailor/wannabe-songwriter Dick (Cary Tedder) who takes her for a sandwich after returning the bag she left behind on the bus. Voila! They fall in love! There’s even a subplot of romance between Joan and former beau Lucky (Danny Gardner), Dick’s best friend.

But wait. Mona casts her lustful eyes in Dick’s direction and trouble ensues. Will Dick and Ruby make it in spite of Mona’s manipulations?

The tides turn against everyone, however, when Director Hennessey (John Bolton) announces that the theater where Dames at Sea is playing is scheduled for demolition. Can Dick and Lucky convince their captain to host the show aboard their ship? Think Busby Berkeley and you’ll have some idea of how this turns out.

The music by Jim Wise is mainly a vehicle for some big old fashioned dance numbers with lots of tap (remember, it’s not about taking anything too seriously – like songs called “Choo-Choo Honeymoon,” “That  Mister Man of Mine” and “The Sailor of My Dreams.” Anna Louizos designs fun sets to accommodate the cheesy plot (including a wrecking ball that disturbs rehearsal….)

It’s an entertaining, if not totally satisfying two hours and 10 minutes at the theater. The most impressive part is the illusion, created by Skinner and the relatively small ensemble (rounded out by Tessa Grady, Kristie Kerwin, Ian Knauer and Kevin Worley, that there is a full chorus singing and dancing up on stage.

Dames at Sea make waves at the Helen Hayes Theatre, 240 West 44th St., NYC. Performances are Tuesday through Thursday at 7 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Wednesday and Saturday at 2 pm; Sunday at 3 pm; Check schedule changes for holiday weeks. Tickets are $67 - $154.50: (800) 432-7250; damesatseabroadway.com.

Christians might also like to know:
-- No content notes. Enjoy.

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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