Few musicals capture the flavor of the early Cole Porter revues and Busby Berkeley musical films quite as well as Dames at Sea. Its constant silliness, instantaneous breaks - for no apparent reason - into song and dance... and parody of just about every musical show, especially 42nd Street, make it delicious, frothy and lots of fun. Now onstage at the Colony Theatre, under the smooth direction of Todd Nielsen, Dames at Sea starts out a tad slow, but builds momentum and gives its audience what they came for: a rollicking good time.
Bernadette Peters became a star in the 60s playing Ruby, a smalltown Utah girl who longs to make it on the Great White Way. Most productions try to copy her look with the spit-curled blonde wig, but here it's pleasantly different. Tessa Grady has a fuller figure andbrunette curly wig, but she's still so genuine, you could just spit. Her love interest Dick, played earnestly by Jeffrey Scott Parsons, also unbelievably from Centerville, Utah does what he has to do to sell his musical tunes as an unknown composer, but keeps his romantic eye riveted to Ruby. It's not easy with splashy, saavy Mona Kent (Heather Ayers) sexily breathing down your neck, but magically Dick stays faithful. Ah, the good old days! There is nothing like 30s plots or lack thereof to keep the show moving with scandals and blemishes securely under wraps.
The entire cast of six captivate. Grady and Parsons tap their toes off to Lisa Hopkins' fast steps and do their very best to sparkle. Grady has her finest moment under the umbrellas of Act II with "Raining in My Heart". Shanon Mari Mills as second banana Joan and Justin Michael Wilcox as lover Lucky are simply delightful. Ayers as Mona is a knockout and Dink O'Neal in two roles as Hennesey and the Captain is comedically on target and a terrific tapper. Stephen Gifford's simplistic sets and A. Jeffrey Schoenberg's lovely costumes add fine touches. It's amazing to note that just about every single song sounds almost exactly like a standard we know...in fact hum, like "Beguine", "Raining..." or the saucy unforgettable "Singapore Sue". That one could be a scene plunked right out of an MGM movie with Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse.
This is a fine production of Dames at Sea. We're not on Broadway and we're not seeing Sutton Foster, so let's be happy and relish the talent that the show offers us. It's indeed a pleasurable evening, meant mostly for theatre lovers and folks old enough to remember the likes of Nancy Carroll and Charlie Farrell.