NATIONAL CITY — The most remarkable thing about "Dames at Sea," the Lamb's Players Theatre production showing through Aug. 8, is that once upon a time this show was considered entertaining enough to sustain successful off-Broadway and London runs.
Twenty years ago, "Dames at Sea" was conceived as a spoof of the toe-tapping, chorus-girl-becomes-a-star musicals of the '30s. Now, with the genre half a century in the memory banks (the remake of "42nd Street" notwithstanding), the show runs the risk of being mistaken for a cliche-ridden '30s musical rather than the parody that it is.
Crisper direction by Rick Meads might have established the nature of the show more definitively. Also, while belting, Broadway musical-type voices might not have saved the show or the so-so songs by George Haimsohn, Robin Miller and Jim Wise, they sure would have made the time pass more quickly.
The burden of the show falls on six actors, one of whom, David Cochran Heath, plays two parts--that of the Broadway producer who loses his theater on opening night and of Captain Courageous, who, as a result of some seductive conniving by his old love, the show's glamorous star, Mona Kent, agrees to have the show within a show on his ship.
Heath, a veteran actor at Lamb's Players, is amusing, if a bit precious, in his dual role. As Mona, Deborah Gilmour Smyth, another veteran of the troupe, does not fare as well.
Smyth has a refined quality that served her well in the recent production of "Talley's Folly." It's a quality that she needs to lose, but doesn't, in the excessive part of the imperious and lascivious leading lady.
However, she does come through in "Beguine," the song that she sings with the captain in a comic salute to their old romance.
Devon Yates is the sweet little girl from Centerville, Utah, who wants to make it as a star and falls in love with a sweet young sailor, also from Centerville (Tony Mandel), who wants to make it as a songwriter. The acting here is on key. Unfortunately, the voices aren't.
In supporting roles, Ellen Harvey as the gum-chewing chorus girl with the heart of gold, and Michael Gier as the happy-go-lucky sailor, Lucky, provide the lion's share of the comedy.
Harvey is especially fine in her wise-cracking role. She is also the only woman in the cast who has the legs to wear Veronica Murphy Smith's otherwise unflattering shorter costumes.
Wade Collings' choreography achieves a pleasant mixture of tap dancing and romantic, swirling fun. Mike Buckley's lighting is fine. Credit for the non-existent scenery goes to David Thayer.
This is Meads' directing debut at Lamb's Players. While he keeps the actors moving--often nicely--he fails to coax the jokes into a rhythm that might infuse this sodden mass with life.
The result is a sad waste of energy and talent. "Dames at Sea" is one show that should never have been allowed to leave the dock--unless it was to board the Titanic.
"DAMES AT SEA" Book and lyrics by George Haimsohn and Robin Miller. Music by Jim Wise. Director, Rick Meads. Choreographer, Wade Collings. Costumes, Veronica Murphy Smith. Set and sound, David Thayer. Lighting, Mike Buckley. Stage manager, Karl Mertins. With Deborah Gilmour Smyth, Ellen Harvey, David Cochran Heath, Devon Yates, Tony Mandel and Michael Gier. At 8 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday with Saturday matinees at 2 p.m. through Aug. 8. At Lamb's Players Theatre, 500 Plaza Blvd., National City.