The Union Theatre, London
In association with Jameson House Productions
Dames at Sea: Book and Lyrics – George Hamsohn and Robin Miller. Music – Jim Wise
Until August 20 Tuesday to Saturday – 7.30pm Saturday and Sunday – 2.30pm
Running time 2 hours.
Review: William Russell, 12 08 11
A show as delightful as the story is unlikely.
Loads of tap dancing to blow away those recession blues is provided in this delightful revival of the spoof musical based on the Warner Brothers musicals of the 1930s.
The plot, a mixture of the likes of 42nd Street, the Golddigger movies and Follow the Fleet, is the one about a chorus girl not a million miles removed from Ruby Keeler who becomes a Broadway legend over night and wins the tap-dancing sailor from her hometown, who, would you believe, just happens to compose songs. When the theatre is bulldozed the girls stage the show on the deck of the tap-dancing sailor’s ship, the leading lady gets seasick and the chorus boys’ boat sinks. Guess who has the sea legs to take over the lead and save the day. As for the missing boys, well the sailors can tap dance – like all American sailors in musicals.
Directed with style by Kirk Jameson this is a decent revival of a slight show; it is not a patch on The Boyfriend when it comes to poking gentle fun at past fashions in musicals, and some might argue it’s hardly worth reviving. However the young and very talented cast give it their all.
Gemma Sutton as Ruby, the gormless heroine from the sticks, and Catriana Sandison as her wise cracking, worldly chorus girl friend, are a delight, while Daniel Bartlett and Alan Hunter, the sailors they fall in love with, are suitably innocent and manly. Everyone involved tap dances merrily away.
The veteran Rosemary Ashe as Mona Kent, the ageing star whose time has passed, plays the role to the hilt, although she isn’t all that funny which is surprising. The trouble is that with this sort of material you really have to play it straight if it is to work, and she hams it up a little too much, ending up more drag queen than Broadway diva.
As the ship’s commander, who just happens to be part of Mona’s colourful past, Ian Mowat hits the style perfectly.
The songs nicely copy the style of a variety of composers, with It’s You, a Cole Porter style name-dropping number, although the names are hardly names the cast let alone the audience will have heard of, and the lugubrious Raining in My Heart, which demolishes all those soulful laments of the time, probably the best of the bunch. It is a short evening – there is a 20 minute interval – but the right length for the material which is stretched just about as far as it can go.
Mona Kent – Rosemary Ashe
Joan – Catriana Sandison
Harry Hennesey – Anthony Wise
Ruby – Gemma Sutton
Dick – Daniel Bartlett
Lucky – Alan Hunter
Captain Courageous – Ian Mowat
Sailors – Matt Gillett, Jonny Godbold, Joshua Tonks
Dames – Natalie Kent, Meg Gallagher, Sasi Strallen
Director – Kirk Jameson
Choreographer – Drew McOnie
Musical Director – Richard Bates
Designer – Kingsley Hall
Producer – Sasha Regan