|Vinny Chavez, Laura Pyper, Emily Giauque Evans, |
Kate E. Cook, Tedd Glazebrook and
"Dames at Sea is a fun and frivolous musical send-up and homage to 1930s movie musicals like 42nd Street where an understudy must step in to fill the shoes of an incapacitated lead and become the star of the show. With a good measure of the "let's put on a show" exuberance from the films of Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney and a large dose of the elaborate musical numbers from the Busby Berkeley movie musical extravaganzas, Dames at Sea manages with just a small cast of six to provide plenty of fun and high energy musical moments to the well-known story. It was a modest hit when it originally premiered Off Broadway in the late 1960s and featured Bernadette Peters in one of her first starring roles. The Hale Centre Theatre production running through April 29th features a hardworking and multi-talented cast, sure-footed direction, rich and varied choreography, and some impressive costumes.
Director and choreographer Cambrian Jones does a nice job of grounding the cast in the 1930s period of the show, making the humorous moments pop and also providing a nice range of dance steps. I especially like his inventive choreography that involves the use of a ladder during "Good Times Are Here to Stay" and the lovely use of umbrellas in "Raining in My Heart." He provides an abundance of fancy footwork in this production. Jones adds a nice creative directorial touch to the act one closer when bricks of the theatre being demolished appear to fall from the ceiling and he also designed the wigs for the show which are perfectly in line with the period as are the make-up designs for the women. I also really appreciate the decision to not expand the cast, using only six actors, as was done in the original Off-Broadway production in the late 1960s. Mary Atkinson's costumes provide a nice range of styles and looks, from pleated skirts and embroidered tops to cleanly designed sailor outfits. She also designed some colorful and sparkling costumes for the finale. With a minimal set design by Adam DeVaney, this theatre in the round production still manages to provide plenty of spectacle with the use of anchors and life preservers surrounding the audience and the front of a ship in one corner of the theatre. Dames at Sea might have a series of overly contrived situations, a mostly lackluster score, and a second act that is much better than the first, but it is a show that is enjoyable, fun, silly fluff. It is also a charming valentine to the big movie musicals of the 1930s. The Hale Centre Theatre production is fun and frivolous with clean and clear direction, a cast that easily plays both the comical and serious moments and has no problem in essaying the abundance of fun, high energy choreography.
The Hale Center Theatre production of Dames at Sea runs through April 29th with performances at 50 W. Page Avenue in Gilbert. Tickets can be ordered at www.haletheatrearizona.com or by calling (480) 497-118
Photo: Sam Miller