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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Dames At Sea

Dames At Sea
Book and Lyrics by George Haimsohn and Robin Miller
Music by Jim Wise
Directed by Michael Edwards
Choreographed by Roy Alan
Musical Direction by Chris Leavy
Starring Molly Jackson and Brian Wettstein
Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park FL

How many pianos does this outfit own? One on stage, two in the pit, and one in the lobby – that’s their bare minimum. But they need all those ivories for this retro funhouse musical; it’s a pastiche of every tap dancing black-and-white musical ever filmed. In the first act producer Hennessey (David Thome) battles the demons of theatre production; his dancers are sick, his leading lady (Jan Leigh Herndon) is a pain, and the building is about to come down. His plight sounds like any Fringe show ever done. Then bright-faced Ruby (Jackson) bounces in just off the bus; she’s arrived from Utah and is ready to lead the chorus without having eaten in three days or even seen the routine. Blasé Joan (Heather Alexander) adopts her and then lost seaman Dick (Wettstein) drops by. He falls for Ruby and along with his pal Lucky (Roy Alan) they get the show moved onto their battleship and save us from the Nazi’s. I know, it make no sense, but we’re not here for logic, we’re here for tap dancing.

And there is plenty of that, from the opener “Wall Street” to the big first act number “Choo Choo Honey Moon.” The second act doesn’t let up, from the titular “Dames At Sea” to the highlight number of the whole show, “Star Tar,” it’s a constant tip-tap of shoes and and sex. Even the Captain (Thome again) gets a big number with the vampish Mona. Mr. Thome doesn’t get many opportunities to strut his stuff in this show, but he’s great when given a shot in “The Beguine.” Ms. Herndon is an excellent vampish woman Of A Certain Age; she’s sexy and telegraphs “I know what I’m doing, don’t you be the one to mess it up.” While you’re cheering for Dick and Ruby to hook up and for Ms. Kent to seduce the Captain, the “B” couple is Joan (Heather Alexander) and her long time real life dance partner Roy Alan. Their dance numbers anchor “Choo Choo Honeymoon,” and they make everything look so easy you might think “I could do that.” You can’t, ask my orthopedist. There’s more stuff on this set than normal; they even fit a battleship and two cannons down there. All that’s missing are sea gulls and some old guys fishing.
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For more information on Winter Park Playhouse, please visit http://www.winterparkplayhouse.org

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