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Dames at Sea: Theater review by Adam Feldman
Dames at Sea was launched in 1966 at the downtown coffeehouse Caffe Cino, where its affectionate send-up of 1930s movie musicals tapped—or, rather, tap-danced—into nostalgia for the busily silly spectacles of yesteryear. Now it’s on Broadway, where it lands like a harmless piece of wet fluff. The first 20 minutes of wide-eyed antics are cute; then your mind starts to wander. Dames at Sea’s mild pastiche (of plots like 42nd Street’s and songs by the likes of Gershwin and Porter) is passable but passé—imagine a revival, half a century from now, of a Fringe show about the ’80s—and it’s presented with tongue so far in cheek that it can’t say much at all.
The cast of six works hard to sell it, though, including Eloise Kropp as a bright young hoofer, John Bolton as her shambling director, Cary Tedder as her sailor-songwriter beau and Lesli Margherita (camping overtime) as a ruthless star. Director-choreographer Randy Skinner gives them furiously fast tap numbers to perform, as though they were pumping invisible air pedals to keep the show from deflating. In the end, no such luck: pfffffft.
Helen Hayes Theatre (Broadway). Book and lyrics by George Haimsohn and Robin Miller. Music by Jim Wise. Directed by Randy Skinner. With ensemble cast. Running time: 2hrs. One intermission.
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