Reviewed by Tony Annicone
Greater Boston Stage Company, formerly Stoneham Theatre, newest show is “Dames At Sea”, a musical spoof of “42nd Street”, “Anything Goes” and “Singing in the Rain.” It is a musical with books and lyrics by George Haimshon and Robin Miller with music by Jim Wise. It’s a parody of 1930’s Busby Berkeley-style movie musicals in which a chorus girl gets off a bus from Utah to NYC, steps into a role on Broadway and becomes a star.
It originally opened Off-Broadway on December 20, 1968 for a successful run of 575 performances, starring Bernadette Peters as Ruby. Elliot Norton and IRNE award winning director/ choreographer Ilyse Robbins takes this show which is described as “a tap-happy gem of a show that celebrates the golden era of movie musicals” and creates a fun-filled musical that entertains audiences of all ages as they are transported back to the carefree days of the 1930’s. Her choreography expertise stops the show several times in group numbers “That Mister Man of Mine”, “Good Times Are Here to Stay”, “Dames At Sea”, “Raining in My Heart” with twirling umbrellas and the superb tap dance spectacle in “Star Tar” with the company dancing in perfect unison. Musical director Steven Jones plays the lead piano. He taught the talented cast these musical numbers with soaring harmonies and excellent diction. Costume designer Emily Taradash whips up some clever and authentic looking 1930’s gowns for Mona and scenic designer Eric Levenson creates a marvelous set for the cast to perform on. The theatre set is for the first act and the ship set is in the second. Their combined expertise wins these talented performers a standing ovation at curtain call on a job very well done.
Shana Dirik commands the stage as the diva, Mona Kent. From her first entrance during her opening dance “Wall Street”, reminiscent of “42 Street” song to her romantic ballad “That Mister of Mine”, a homage to “The Man I Love” to “The Beguine” where she seduces the captain, this woman knows how to work the crowd. Shana’s antics as this vamp who hits on Dick and uses the captain for her own ends are perfect. Her Spanish accent in “The Beguine” is a hoot. Pretty Ephie Aardema also shines as the ingénue, Ruby with her magnificent voice and strong tapping ability. Her wide eyed gaze at the other performers and the audience, captures their hearts from her first number with Dick, “It’s You”, my personal favorite and in “Sailor of My Dreams” when she falls in love with Dick at last. Ruby is singing to a photo of FDR during it. Ephie also delivers the goods in “Raining in My Heart” with her dancing expertise and the twirling umbrellas are marvelous, too as well as in “Star Tar” where the cast tap dances your cares away. Since this is a spoof of the 1930’s movies all ends happily with the three couples getting married.
Ruby’s love interest, Dick is wonderfully played by Taavon Gamble. Dick is not only a sailor but an aspiring song writer. His duet with Ephie is splendid and he dazzles the audience in “Broadway Baby” which is not the Sondheim song from “Follies” but was written four years before it. Their other duet is “There’s Something About You” which is greeted with thunderous applause. Taavon also does a super job with Michael in “Dames at Sea” which opens the second act on a high note. Michael Seltzer gets to strut his stuff and display his voice in the duet “Choo-Choo-Honeymoon” with Sara. He is a fabulous vocalist and dancer, too. Michael recently graduated from Boston Conservatory. Gorgeous blonde Sara Coombs shines as Joan. Her powerful belting voice soars in her duet with Michael as they imitate a train and in “Good Times Are Here to Stay” with Shana to close Act 1 with a bang. Her dancing prowess is superb, too. When she lifts Michael several times during their dance numbers is hilarious and one of Ilyse’s comic touches.
Russell Garrett also does a marvelous job in the dual roles of Hennessy and the Captain who finally falls for Mona’s charms. He displays his splendid dancing ability in this show. I have fond memories of this show having directed it back in 1984. So for a fun filled song and dance musical to bring you out of the doldrums the country is currently in, be sure to catch “Dames At Sea” at Greater Boston Stage to brighten up your life with magnificent singing and dancing of yesteryear. Tell them Tony sent you. The tap dancing is phenomenal!!
Dames At Sea (7 to 24 September)
Greater Boston Stage Company, 395 Main Street, Stoneham, MA
1(781)279-2200 or www.greaterbostonstage.org