Infinity Theatre Company-Anna Roberts Ostroff & Alan Ostroff
Dames at Sea
(Dames at Sea Website)
Book and Lyrics by George Haimsohn and Robin Miller
Music by Jim Wise
Directed and Choreographed by Randy Skinner
The Helen Hayes Theatre
240 West 44th Street
John Bolton, Mara Davi, Danny Gardner
Eloise Kropp, Lesli Margherita, Cary Tedder
Tessa Grady, Kristie Kerwin, Ian Knauer, Kevin Worley
Scenic Design: Anna Louizos
Costume Design: David C. Woolard
Lighting Design: Ken Billington/Jason Kantrowitz
Sound Design: Scott Lehrer
Hair & Wig Design: Tom Watson
Music Coordinator: Seymour Red Press
Music Director: David Gursky
Press Representative: Polk & Co.
Casting: Jay Binder, CSA/Jason Styres, CSA
General Management: Richards/Climan, Inc.
Production Stage Manager: Ira Mont
Production Manager: Jeff Wild
Orchestrations: Jonathan Tunick
Music Supervision, Vocal & Dance Arrangements: Rob Berman
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 21. 2015 Matinee
I envision the current production of Dames at Sea, at The Helen Hayes Theatre, enjoying a long life on tour, in suburban dinner theaters, in college shows, and, hopefully, in a midtown, Off-Broadway space. Unfortunately, today’s Broadway audiences crave large-ensemble, song and dance productions, and that’s a shame. This Infinity Theatre Company presentation, directed with bold strokes and choreographed with spunk by Randy Skinner, is one of the most delightful, small musicals I’ve ever seen. It has it all, a retro film introduction and closer, like the old song and dance movies, a lead who looks like Ruby Keeler, tapping her heart out, whose character is named, yes, Ruby, a couple of sailors, a show within a show, a navy ship that becomes a musical stage, and lots of vaudevillian-styled banter and wit. In fact, Lesli Margherita, who played Mrs. Wormwood so spectacularly in the recent Matilda the Musical, is on hand here as Mona Kent, an over-the-top diva. And, Mara Davi, reviewed on these pages in Death Takes a Holiday and the revival of A Chorus Line, is Ruby’s stalwart, backstage friend. This homage to movie musicals, from the 1930’s and 40’s, has a book and lyrics by George Haimsohn and Robin Miller, with music by Jim Wise.
The too-good-to-be-true sendup has Broadway wannabe, Ruby (Eloise Kropp), traveling from Utah, with just a suitcase, walking right into a theater’s backstage, where a chorus girl had just taken off with a ring on her finger! Faster than a sailor can wink, Ruby learns the tap routine and gets the gig, but only seals the deal with support from a sailor-songwriter, named Dick (Cary Tedder), and a fellow chorine, named Joan (Ms. Davi). Lo and behold, Dick is from the same small town in Utah. A second sailor-hoofer is Lucky (Danny Gardner), Joan’s beau, and Ruby gets instant competition for Dick from diva, Mona Kent (Ms. Margherita), who seizes the stage with charisma and cleavage, dreaming of all those new songs for her solo acts. The backstage director is the charming, mature Hennesey (John Bolton), with Mr. Bolton changing roles for Act II as the ship’s captain, when the sailors find a battleship stage, upon the loss of the Broadway venue. Just like the old movie musicals, everything works out winningly, with the characters neatly coupling, after crooning, cavorting, and conniving.
Randy Skinner’s choreography offers generous, ebullient, tap sequences, with Ms. Kropp surely in her breakout role, as life imitates art. Song highlights include Ms. Kropp’s “The Sailor of My Dreams” and “Raining In My Heart”. Mona’s show-opening number is “Wall Street”, with Ms. Margherita bringing down the house, early on. Dick is featured in “Broadway Baby” and “It’s You” (with Ms. Kropp), showing off Mr. Tedder’s vocals. Joan and Lucky are featured in “Choo-Choo Honeymoon”, drawing audience accolades for Ms. Davi and Mr. Gardner. Mr. Bolton, showcased in (a reprise of) “Broadway Baby” and “The Beguine” (with Ms. Margherita), was perfectly cast as a strong, central character, one with warmth and charm. This show does not list big name actors, and that’s just fine, although, as mentioned above, tourists usually seek stars. David Gorsky, conductor, kept the music swell, with help from Jonathan Tunick and Rob Berman, for orchestrations and arrangements. Anna Louizos’ battleship, as well as the Wall Street – NY backdrop, was stunning. David C. Woolard dressed Mona with a dazzling, nightclub aura. I would have loved to see Ruby close with a brighter, glitzier costume, but she was kept in ingénue, Utah persona. Lighting and sound were clear and crisp. I’d love to see this show again in a sold-out, intimate setting. It deserves another break, just like Ruby’s.