The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings


SEARCH CurtainUp



Etcetera and
Short Term Listings



LA/San Diego






Free Updates
NYC Weather
A CurtainUp Review

Dames At Sea

This navy life would be grand,
With some beautiful, luscious, lovely
Dames at Sea!

---the company's title song
Kathleen White as RubyAndy Meyers as Dick
Kathleen White as Ruby, Andy Meyers as Dick (Photo: Gerry Goodstein)

When the Cocteau Repertory's artistic director David Fuller decided to stage The Three Penny Opera, he had to make a big musical fit the Bouwerie Lane Theatre's physical constraints. With a big assist from his design team, Fuller's little big production held its own in a season of several other Three Penny revivals and, in fact, enjoyed a comeback summer run.

The Fall season has now opened with another musical Dames at Sea. It seemed like a particularly apt choice as it was intended as an intimate production and has a historic link to the theater's earliest days. Dames first docked at the Bouwerie Lane in 1969 and proved that small scale musicals with unknown performers could be big hits. To add to its timeliness: We are once again at war and eager for escape entertainment . . . and Forty-Second Street , which is one of the extravaganzas Dames at Sea spoofs, continues its must successful revival in the theater district. Unfortunately, director Fuller and his Dames and their guys have not landed as smoothly as the original production.

Bernadette Peters, the  original  Ruby & Andy Meyers as Dick
17-year-old Bernadette Peters as the original Ruby, with David Christmas
Lyricists George Haimsohn and Robin Miller and composer Jim Wise initially created Dames as a 45-minute cabaret act at the Cafe Cino in Greenwich Village. Though they expanded it into a full-fledged musical it remained small, the cast size and single instrument (piano) orchestra being part of its humorous intent of sending up the big Busby Berkeley style musicals of the 1930s and 1940s with unBerkeley-like grandeur Once expanded and ready for a real theatrical life, the show moved to the stage where it is now once again playing. The pre-gentrification seediness of the neighborhood didn't prevent audiences (including chauffeur driven celebrities like Noel Coward and Ethel Merman) from coming. The show moved on to the Theatre de Lys (now the Lucille Lortel) and jump started the career of a 17-year-old singer and dancer named Bernadette Peters.

Since that initial triumphant Cocteau-deLys run (575 performances) Dames at Sea has sailed on to many regional, dinner and community theater productions. While I can't think of a Ruby who's achieved Bernadette's super stardom, many talented young performers have played the role she created with enough sass and style to build the show's following. The same can be said for the actors portraying the other characters. Which brings us to the main reason the Cocteau's revival falls short of being the delightful breath of nostalgia it should be.

Kathleen White is an appealingly naive and enthusiastic Ruby but her tapping and singing are hardly the stuff to make her a convincing Utah version of Forty-Second Street's Peggy Sawyer. Energy and enthusiasm is also the only thing to praise in the other five actors. All manage to sing off key often enough to diminish even such lovely tunes as "It's You", "The Sailor of My Dreams" and "The Beguine." Judith Jarosz is a major miscast as the overbearing Mona. Chrytsten Peddie's brash showgirl, Joan, is more shrill than brash. The men simply don't make strong impressions. The tap routines are underwhelming and coarsely executed.

The good news about this bad news is that traces of the clever book and songs are evident despite the limitations of the performers, most thanks to the excellent work of the design team. Roman Tatarowicz manages to provide suitable scenery for the back stage action as well as the Anything Goes style shipboard setting of the second act. Joanne Haas's authentic costumes and Giles Hoyga's lighting contribute towards making the two amusing production numbers "Singapore Sue" and "Raining in My Heart" fun.

Parody can be difficult to bring off. The concept of six unknown actors doing a take-off on a whole genre of musicals associated with big, glitzy sets and a large, star-studded cast takes a delicate directorial touch and actors who make you feel that they could indeed be tomorrow's stars. Too bad, Fuller's direction lacks the necessary subtlety and his actors that sense of possibility. I should add to my negative nattering that I've liked many of the young actors this artistic director has brought into the company, and I wouldn't be surprised if one of these days his ambitions for the Cocteau will result in another star being born on this venerable old theater's stage.

Review of the Cocteau's ThreePenny Opera

Book & lyrics: George Haimsohn and Robin Miller
Music: Jim Wise
Directed by David Fuller
Music Director: Matt Castle
Choreographer: Barbara Brandt
Cast: Campbell Bridges, Judith Jarosz, Andy Meyers, Chrysten Peddie, Joey Stocks, and Kathleen White.
Set Design: Roman Tatarowicz
Costume Design: Joanne Haas
Lighting Design: Giles Hogya
Running time: 2 hours with one intermission
Jean Cocteau Repertory, Bouwerie Lane Theatre, 330 Bowery, on the corner of Bond Street (also known as East 2nd Street), two blocks north of Houston Street and two blocks east of Broadway, 212/677-0060
9/03/04 to 11/28/04; opening 9/12/04.
Wed @7pm, Thurs to Sat @8pm, Sun @3pm.
In October, Dames at Sea> will be playing in repertory with Romeo and Juliet --for dates, see
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based on 9/10 pressperformance
Musical Numbers
Act One
  • Wall Street/Mona
  • It's You/Dick and Ruby
  • Broadway Baby/Dick
  • That Mister Man of Time/ Mona and Chorus
  • Choo-Choo Honeymoon/Joan and Lucky
  • The Sailor of My Dreams/Ruby
  • Singapore Sue/Lucky and Company
  • . Broadway Baby (Reprise)/Hennesey
  • Good Times are Here to Stay/Mona, Joan and Company
Act Two
  • Dames At Sea/Company
  • The Beguine/Mona and Captain
  • Raining m My Heart/Ruby and Chorus
  • There's Something About You/ Dick and Ruby
  • Raining m MyHeart (Reprise)/ Ruby
  • The Echo Waltz/ Mona, Joan, Ruby and Company
  • Star Tar/Ruby and Company
  • Let's Have A Simple Wedding /Company
Tales From Shakespeare
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
Click image to buy.
Our Review

Mendes at the Donmar
Our Review

At This Theater Cover
At This Theater

Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide

Ridiculous! The Theatrical Life and Times of Charles Ludlam
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam

metaphors dictionary cover
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
Click image to buy.
Go here for details and larger image.

The Broadway Theatre Archive


Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from