‘Dames at Sea’ is upbeat production

Forget the chill of late winter with warmth of fun musical


In his director’s notes, Robert Wells speaks of those elaborate 1930s film musicals — “kaleidoscopic camera treatments of scores of beautiful women ... dozens of dancing sailors ... Busby Berkeley musical numbers ...”

In his opening greeting to the audience for “Dames at Sea” on Feb. 9, he smiled widely and added: “We do it here with six actors!”

And indeed they do at Town Hall Arts Center in Littleton, in an upbeat production of “Dames at Sea,” first presented in 1966 off-Broadway with new performer Bernadette Peters.

A live band accompanies the musical, with book and lyrics by George Haimsohn and Robin Miller and lyrics by Jim Wise. Wells, also with the improv group “Chicken Lips,” is an ideal director for this tongue-in-cheek look at a theater form gone by.

“Dames at Sea” continues at Town Hall Arts Center through March 17.

And the Stanton Gallery features a pleasant new art exhibit — related more by title, “Women on Water,” than by content. Works are by local painters Darcie Kurtak and Kimberly Conrad. Take time to visit while attending the musical — or on weekdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Mary McGoary, playing tough older actress Mona Kent, comes onstage singing and tapping in the opening number, “Wall Street,” to start the action, and before she finishes, a wide-eyed frightened Ruby (Chrissy Keane-Schmidt) stumbles onto the 42nd Street stage — just off a bus from Utah.

“I want to be in a Broadway show,” she says. Of course she does — and has tap shoes in her suitcase! And of course she can dance and the director signs her on!

And — of course a sailor, Dick (Matt LaFontaine), on leave, who is also a songwriter and from her home town, shows up! “It’s You!” they sing.

Also cast: Stephen Turner, who is Hennesey, the director as well as a very funny ship’s captain; Carrie Millard as Joan, a chorus girl, and John Mackey, Lucky, also a sailor (and dance captain). When this cast is all onstage, singing and tapping, they fill the theater, which transforms from stage to battleship quickly and cleverly, due to clever design work by veteran Michael Duran.

Thumps and bumps during the first act turn out to be a bulldozer, starting to tear down the theater. What shall we do?? Stage the show on the ship, of course! Mona knows just how to convince the captain, an old acquaintance, and action shifts on deck for Act II, where romances develop and there’s time for more music and dance.

Kelly Kates’ choreography carries the show, summoning up images of lots of chorus girls and happy dancing sailors, for those who may recall those old movies--or see them occasionally on TV.

Especially note: “The Beguine” with Mona and The Captain.

What a great remedy for the February blahs!


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