Come On, Get Happy with “Dames at Sea”
By Skip Sheffield
“Dames at Sea” is probably the lightest, silliest, most-clichéd Broadway musical ever.
Thereby lies its unsubtle charm. See “Dames at Sea” through May 31 at the Wick Theatre in Boca Raton and you’ll see what I mean.
“Dames at Sea” was created in 1966 as a deliberate parody of over-the-top 1930s Busby Berkeley musicals. It was written by George Hamilton and Robin Miller, with music by Jim Wise. It became a vehicle for unknown ingénue Bernadette Peters when the actress originally cast dropped out. In an art-versus-life scenario, both Bernadette and the show were a hit. Bernadette Peters is now a Broadway icon. “Dames at Sea” has become a staple of theater companies across the country as it is a very simple show with a cast of just six (plus band) and minimal set requirements.
This puts the burden on the performers. For the Wick production director Michael Ursua has found a Bernadette Peters sound-alike for the role of Ruby, a Utah innocent freshly off the bus from Utah.
Pretty Lindsay Bethea has a high-pitched, girlish Betty Boop kind of voice that suits her star-struck ingénue.
Likewise Alex Jorth has the suitable gee-whiz naivety for his role of Navy sailor Richard, or Dick as everyone calls him.
Like the characters created by Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler, Dick and Ruby are made for each other, but Dick is not immune to the overpowering charms of Broadway star Mona Kent (Laura Hodos), who not only wants Dick for herself; she wants Rudy booted from the chorus line of the namesake show “Dames at Sea,” which could be Ruby’s launching shot for stardom. Hodos has the requisite rafter-shaking belt voice, which underscores the force of Mona.
Other stereotypical characters are fellow seaman Lucky (Blake Speliacy) who has a thing for Ruby’s gal pal, hoofer Joan (Alison McCartan).
The adult authority figures of producer-director Hennesey and the ship Captain are played by Gabriel Zenone, a newcomer with impressive theater and television credentials.
The songs themselves are clichés, parodying the shallow show tunes of the 1930s, but they are sung earnestly and accompanied beautifully by an onstage band led by pianist Caryl Fantel. If you are a sucker for tap-dancing as I am, you’ll love the routines choreographed by Angela Morando.
If you want to come on, get happy, “Dames at Sea” is a lightweight treat for you.
Tickets are $58-$62. Call 561-995-2333 or go to www.thewick.org.