“Dames at Sea” is a frothy summer’s entertainment

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Dames at Sea logo with the cast photos below
Dames at Sea

An intimate show with a talented cast of six

Bucks County Playhouse continues its 2022 season with Dames at Sea, an affectionate homage to the musicals of the 1930s. They have come up with a light, airy, and absolutely delightful offering that seems just right for a summer evening at the theater.

If you’re coming to the theater expecting a serious musical like Spring Awakening or Jesus Christ Superstar — or even an extravaganza like Cats or Phantom of the Opera — then you may be disappointed. Dames at Sea is an intimate show with a talented cast of six. You will be charmed by the show’s goofy take on the tropes of old movie musicals — and you may be delighted and surprised by the show’s sheer energy and joyousness. This show, with book and lyrics by George Haimsohn and Robin Miller and music by Jim Wise, is a surefire audience pleaser.

The plot is familiar to anyone who remembers the black-and-white 1930’s Warner Bros. musicals where game kids put on a Broadway show and achieve fame, fortune, and true romance. Producer/director Hennessey (Byron St. Cyr) is running a final rehearsal of his comeback musical, also titled “Dames at Sea,” with temperamental leading lady Mona Kent (Lesli Margherita). Into the theater steps fresh-off-the-bus Ruby (Daisy Wright), who gets to replace another chorus girl and make her Broadway debut. Also, to the theater come sailors Dick (Daniel Plimpton) and Lucky (Drew King). It’s love at first sight for Dick and Ruby, while Lucky reunites with his flame Joan (Julie Kavanagh), another chorus girl. Dick, an aspiring songwriter, writes a song for Ruby on the spot, catching the attention of Mona. Before the show can open, unforeseen complications lead to the need to find another venue.

Director/choreographer Randy Skinner, a multiple-time Tony® Award nominee, guides this talented cast through the nonsense that is Dames at Sea, never allowing its off-kilter charm to be tainted by any whiff of cynicism. The standout performance is Lesli Margherita’s portrayal of Mona Kent, a Broadway prima donna who’s clawed her way to the top. Margherita creates a smiling monster, but one that is more oblivious than hateful. King and Kavanagh make a peppy couple, he a little slow-witted, she a no-nonsense, take-charge optimist (think Joan Blondell or Una Merkel). St. Cyr, who also plays a naval captain, pulls off his two roles with admirable aplomb, and Plimpton gives a solid performance as a young man caught between true love and ambition. Daisy Wright’s Ruby is spirited and optimistic, loving and uncertain, and, in her big second-act number “Raining in My Heart,” reveals a depth of emotion unexpected in what can so easily be dismissed as just another ingenue role.

The scenic designs of Anna Louizos are delightful and atmospheric, sparklingly lit by Kirk Bookman with an outstanding sound design by Joanna Lynne Staub. David C. Woolard’s costumes are cleverly reminiscent of early 1930s styles.

Normally, I recommend shows for one type of audience or another. With Dames at Sea, I can’t. Dames at Sea is a show for every kind of theater-goer — old and young, male and female, serious audiences, and those looking for a fun night out. It is my pleasure to recommend making the trip to the Bucks County Playhouse to see their production of Dames at Sea!

Dames at Sea is presented by the Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, PA, through September 11th. For more information or to purchase tickets, go to bcptheater.org or call 215-862-2121. The playhouse recommends but does not require that masks be worn inside the building.

Allen Neuner is the theater reviewer at Out in Jersey magazine. Jersey born and raised, Allen went to his first live play in 1957 and has been deliriously in love with live theater ever since. He works in the box office at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick. He has been partnered to music reviewer Bill Realman Stella, with whom he is also deliriously in love, for over 20 years. They live in an over-cluttered house in Somerville.