Review: ‘Dames at Sea’ at Helen Hayes Theater
One of the great attractions of revivals on Broadway is their ability to transport the audience back in time. Such is the case with “Dames at Sea,” which opened at the Helen Hayes Theater last Thursday.
Despite being a revival, the show was actually making its Broadway premiere, having opened in an Off Off Broadway production in 1966 starring Bernadette Peters. Interestingly enough, many people professed to know the show although few had actually seen it. Some of the show’s best numbers including “Good Times Are Here to Stay” and “Raining in My Heart” are memorable and often performed outside the show.
“Dames” is not only a revival but it’s a homage to the movie musicals of the 1930s and does a credible job of taking us back in time to a period when it was almost possible for a girl from the Midwest to step off a bus, almost immediately land a Broadway role, and quickly become a star.
Although she’s no Bernadette Peters, Eloise Kropp does a superb job as the completely wholesome Ruby. The character was named after Ruby Keeler, who starred in some of those 1930s musicals including “42nd Street” and “Gold Diggers of 1933.”
Dick, played by Cary Tedder, sings beautifully as does his sidekick, Danny Gardner as Lucky. John Bolton is perfectly cast in a dual role as the ship’s captain – this is where the eventual show-within-a-show takes place – and the almost-broke director. Lesli Margherita is truly memorable as diva Mona Kent, making the audience both love her and hate her simultaneously.
The show is pure nostalgia, with nostalgia defined as how you want to remember things and not necessarily the reality of the post-Depression era. The lyrics and book by George Haimsohn and Robin Miller, with music by Jim Wise, transports us back and there is more than just a passing nod to many appropriate period references to reinforce the era in question.
Inject a healthy dose of reasonably authentic costumes – the 1930s-style dresses were spot on, as were the sailor costumes (who doesn’t love a man in uniform seems to have been the play’s unspoken theme), and the simple but effective set made me feel as if I were at sea along with the cast.
(Photos: Accura Media Group)