Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Dames At Seah"

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note: entire contents copyright 2000 by Larry Stark


"Dames at Sea"

Book & Lyrics by George Haimson & Robin Miller
Music by Jim Wise
Directed and Choreographed by Sharon Bisantz
Tap Dances Choreograhed by Charley Borden
Music Director Richard DeMone

Set and Lighting Design by John MacKenzie
Costume Design by Genevieve McCulloch & Norma McGrath

Pianist...........Richard DeMone/Brian Rehrig/Paul Katz
Percussion...............................................Justin Hadley

Mona Kent................................................Linda Goetz
Hennessy/Captain..........................................Bill Spera
Joan.......................................................Linda Sughrue
Ruby..........................................................Ann McCoy
Dick.......................................................David Garison
Lucky....................................................Bruce Williams

Could it be that the theatrical magic of decades of excellent shows by The Hovey Players so soaks their little Abbott Memorial Theater they cannot do bad work there? You might think so, since five of the six actors playing seven parts in "Dames at Sea" are turning in show-stopping performances in their Hovey debuts. But a closer look at the program reveals that Director/Choreographer Sharon Bisantz herself debuted choreographing this very same show twenty-four fruitful years ago, and her cool, inventive eye informs every second of this tiny gem.

This lovingly daft "Gold-diggers of Forty-Two Street" parody has an all-talking/all-singing/all-dancing backstage fantasy of eager kids and tired hoofers getting their big chance to see those names in lights with no cliché left unturned and not a shred of realistic verisimilitude getting in the way of the fun. ("What's the next number, Dick?" "I'm writin' it now!") And when you see it, count the cast carefully, because I swear I saw forty girls (Forty!) in those seven-member production numbers! The show takes nothing seriously, so the fact that the cast Does makes everything work hilariously well. (And John MacKenzie's sets have Four surprises and use the cramped space to perfectopn.)

The heavy here is Linda Goetz playing Mona Kent, a tap-dancing diva who, informed her name is misspelled on the markee, exits stage-right with a stepladder to show who's really boss. She browbeats Bill Spero's Hennessey, a producer-director who after twelve flops has sunk savings and reputation into a show ill-starred enough to have a WPA wrecking-ball destroy the theatre the afternoon of opening night. Luckily Spero also plays the captain of a U.S. battleship who once had a fling and still has a thing for Mona, and with all that empty deck-space, well,.....
Ah but that would be telling!

Linda Sughrue is Joan, the honest, hard-bitten heart-o-gold hoofer who knows where all the bodies are buried; the only thing missing from her performance is a wad of no-nonsense gum. Her sweetie is Bruce Williams, a high-kicking sailorman pressed willingly into service when the dinghy-full of chorus-boys hits, I dunno, an iceberg or something.

And that leaves the ingenue lovers, Dick and Ruby, who would have been sweethearts back in her uncle's Utah sweetshop if he hadn't enlisted right after she served him that malted. Dave Garison plays the sort of star-struck kid with songs just spilling out of him whose head can never quite be turned for long by a big, crafty, egomaniac star (whose initials are Mona Kent!) no matter how bad it looks. He's the sort who will plunk down at the rehearsal piano to improvise a new love-song and, when he rises to gesture at the high-note will be surprised that the piano keeps on playing.

Ann McCoy's Ruby is the one role that cannot become a cliché because it is her young, fragile enthusiasm that gets her a chorus part fresh off the Utah bus, learning the entire show in only an afternoon, and then asked to go on as the st .. (oops, I nearly gave it away!) and is forced to make a choice to at least try to conquer big bad Broadway instead of going back to Allent.. I mean to Utah. She has to find, and apparently lose love in a way that, if cliché, leaves a hollow at the heart of the show. Can she do it?
Well, you'll just have to fight for tickets to find out, won't you?

But I will say this. Ann McCoy can sing while she's acting and more importantly can act while she's singing, and she certainly does exactly what conductor and choreographer and director demand from a believable inner core. She actually seems to get better as the plot progresses. And that may just be nothing but type-casting, because the gossip backstage was this is only her second stage role. If that is true, then I must say that when I saw the show she may have stepped out on the Abbott Memorial stage a nobody, but she came back --- a full-fledged member of a stunningly talented cast.

Who says miracles never happen in the theater?

Love,
===Anon.
FOOTNOTE: Gossip backstage also has it that Jerry Bisantz was playing Dick in this show 24 years ago when Sharon came on as choreographer, and now they have two children and a dog..
Don't talk to me about miracles.......


"Dames at Sea" (till 10 June)
THE HOVEY PLAYERS
Abbott Memorial Theater, 9 Spring Street @ Joel's Way, WALTHAM
1(781)893-9171

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