“Dames at Sea,” playing at the Helen Hayes Theater, tells the story of a young woman from a small town in Utah named Ruby (Eloise Kropp) who travels all the way to New York City to make it on Broadway. She comes with nothing more than her ruby tap shoes. She drops into the rehearsals of a struggling show “Dames at Sea,” impresses her way into the production and runs into a sailor, Dick (Cary Tedder), who is from the same Utah town as her. She becomes at odds with the star of the show, Mona Kent (Lesli Margherita), befriends the lead dancer, Joan (Mara Davi), and becomes our guide through this very tongue-in-cheek romantic comedy.
The show, which is a revival, was written as a satire of flashy 1930s shows, and despite its age there is still a whip to its humor. It’s entirely camp, laden with delightful physical comedy and nostalgic vernaculars. The musical numbers are varied, delightful, energetic and spaced enough to prevent being overwhelmed.
The show features six cast members with seven characters (the versatile John Bolton plays both the Captain and producer Hennesey). The cast is undoubtedly small, and sometimes the stage feels a bit empty for what is supposed to be a flashy backstage musical. Then again, with six brilliant performers, perhaps the stage could not hold any more.
In Bolton’s dual roles as the curmudgeonly Hennesey and the whimsical loverboy Captain never ceases to amaze. His dancing, sense of humor and ranged vocal talent makes him a staple of variety in the show. Bolton playing alongside Margherita are the highlights of the show, striking the audience with their mock-sensual chemistry. Margherita, playing the self-absorbed diva Mona Kent, is herself an astounding talent, mesmerizing the audience from her first number to her last.
Danny Gardener as Lucky, Dick’s fellow sailor, and Davi as Joan are captivating, catching the ears of the audience in their rhythm and tapping showmanship. The show has many tap numbers, but keeps each one fresh and captivating. Most exciting is Kropp as Ruby, who substitutes flashiness with pure speed and coordination.
The show is a tremendous amount of fun with the perfect balance of humor, musicality and strong comic acting. It isn’t revolutionary, and thus not abundantly popular, but it should be.
“Dames at Sea” is playing at the Helen Hayes Theatre, 240 W. 44th St.
Email Nikolas Castelao at [email protected]