What began a half-century ago as a gentle spoof of backstage movie musicals now aspires to the big time. Alas, Dames at Sea isn’t big enough — or good enough — to command a Broadway stage, even at the diminutive Helen Hayes. The material it satirizes is so superior, and now so readily available in the digital universe, that this revival has no reason to exist.
The authors, all of them now transitioned to the big theater in the sky, penned nothing as good as Kiss Me, Kate, Guys and Dolls, or South Pacific. The score evokes but does not deliver great songs by Porter, Loesser, Gershwin, Comden and Green — even Hammerstein.
Director Randy Skinner does his best with thin material. The first five minutes, a direct steal from Gold Diggers (1933), are promising and lightning-fast, but then the energy flags; the task of keeping the fun aloft with a cast of six is too much for the capable but unremarkable performers. In the ingénue role that catapulted Faith Prince to stardom, Eloise Kropp comes off like a gifted potato. There’s good tap dancing, but not nearly enough of it. The pleasures of this production are primarily visual — Anna Louizos’s set and Ken Billington and Jason Kantrowitz’s lighting make the actresses look like calendar girls and the mise-en-scène like movie posters.
Dames at Sea
Book and lyrics by George Haimsohn and Robin Miller
Music by Jim Wise
Helen Hayes Theatre
240 West 44th Street