Tap-Centric ‘Dames at Sea’ Sails Onto Broadway

Tap-Centric ‘Dames at Sea’ Sails Onto Broadway

Those who can tap dance, do. Those who can’t tap dance watch in awe with giant smiles on their faces. At least that was how I looked when I saw Dames at Sea, the tap-happy show that finally takes Broadway after originating Off-Off-Broadway back in 1966. Set in the 1930s, Dames at Sea has all the glitz and glitter of big Busby Berkeley-esque musicals condensed down into a cast of six. When opening night for a surefire hit is thwarted, have no fear… the Navy is here! And gosh darn it, the show will go on.

Silly? Yep! Entertaining? You bet!!

What makes Dames at Sea so fun to watch is how it pokes fun at the genre. The girl just off the bus from Utah lands her first Broadway show within minutes and everyone just goes along with it because that’s what you do when one is at a musical. People are going to burst into song and intricate tap routines for the next couple of hours; your disbelief is already suspended so just sit back and enjoy the ride because said ride is hilarious.

I’m still amazed how such a big show has such a tiny cast, but I guess I shouldn’t be because of how perfect each person played his/her part(s). Mara Davi’s Joan is the glue that holds everyone together, in addition to being a self-assured and strong woman. In his Broadway debut, Danny Gardner plays Lucky as a mischievous sailor with a heart of gold and a knack for shenanigans. Dick, Cary Tedder’s sailor, is earnest and determined; headstrong enough to follow his dreams of writing the next big musical, but also naïve to get so caught up in love with a girl he just properly met a few minutes prior. As Ruby, Eloise Kropp completely nails the role of the fresh-face girl ready for her big break. With Ruby’s unwavering “I’ll try!” attitude and crazy-amazing tap skills, Kropp wins over the audience again and again. (For the record, everyone in the cast has crazy-amazing tap skills, but Kropp’s “Star Tar” tap number is the epitome of a showstopper.) John Bolton pulls double duty as both Dames at Sea’s director, Hennesey, and the captain of the ship. Though mostly the straight man, Bolton has his fair share of laugh-out-loud moments. But it is Lesli Margherita as diva Mona Kent who flawlessly steals every scene she is in. Watching Margherita’s facial expressions and body language is essentially a master class in physical comedy. “That Mister Man of Mine” and “The Beguine” almost had me in tears—I was laughing that hard.

Dames at Sea is the retro, feel-good show that Broadway needs right now. There are no major life lessons learned here; just a displaced musical finding a new home, people falling in love through song and dance, and smile-inducing numbers that will have your own feet tapping. Now in previews at the Helen Hayes Theatre, Dames at Sea opens October 22nd.

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