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Raleigh Little Theatre's current presentation of the 1968 backstage musical Dames at Sea, with book and lyrics by George Haimsohn and Robin Miller and music by Jim Wise, is a delightful parody of the ultra-lavish 1930s movie-musical extravaganzas popularized by director Busby Berkeley and showcasing the song-and-dance talents of silver-screen legends Fred Astaire, Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell, and Ginger Rogers. Long-time RLT director Haskell Fitz-Simons and choreographer Freddie-Lee Heath stage this splendid spoof with commendable style and wit on a superlative set by scenic and lighting designer Rick Young.
Young's superb scenery for a seedy about-to-be-demolished Broadway theater and a huge battleship anchored in New York Harbor, costume designer Vicki Olson's vibrant 1930s creations, exuberant instrumental accompaniment by musical director/conductor/pianist Gregory Dixon and the RLT orchestra, and skillful sound design by Ed Bodell and Roger Bridges make Dames at Sea a treat for the eye and the ear.
During the Sept 14 Sunday matinee, the young and talented cast of Dames at Sea, literally tap-danced its way into the audience's heart. The boundless energy and enthusiasm of the cast proved contagious.
Amie Davidson is a scream as aging and fast-fading Broadway star Mona Kent, not so affectionately known as "the Lady Macbeth of 42nd Street" by her fellow cast members. Mona is a temperamental prima donna and mantrap whose powerful connections extend to the captain of the battleship on which the company stages its show when the wrecking ball levels the rundown Broadway theater where they were rehearsing.
Susan Durham-Lozan was sweet as Ruby, the talented newcomer from Centerville, Utah, looking for her first big break; but Blair Byrd stole the show with her wisecracks as Joan, the cynical veteran chorus girl who takes Ruby under her wing.
Jamey Benson is cute as Dick, the sailor and would-be Broadway composer and lyricist who shares Ruby's small-town roots; and Alan Seales is quite funny as Dick's happy-go-lucky sailor pal Lucky. But Brent Wilson is terrific as a hard-boiled theater director named Hennesey and the strait-laced battleship Captain with whom Mona Kent had a youthful fling.
Dames at Sea, which takes its title from the show within the show, is a nice little diversion for a fall afternoon or evening. The mood is light, the song-and-dance numbers are clever compositions, the wisecracks are zingers and right on the mark, and a good time will be had by all.
Raleigh Little Theatre presents Dames at Sea Wednesday-Saturday, Sept. 17-20 and 24-27 and Oct. 1-4, at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Sept. 21 and 28 and Oct. 5, at 3 p.m. in RLT's Cantey V. Sutton Main Stage Theatre, 301 Pogue St., Raleigh, North Carolina. $20 Friday-Saturday, $17 Thursday and Sunday, $13 Wednesday, $11 Sunday matinee for students and seniors, and $5 Thursday Night Rush (NOTE: Tickets must be bought on the day of the performance). 919/821-3111. http://www.raleighlittletheatre.org/dames.htm [inactive 6/04]. Note 1: All performances are wheelchair accessible, and assistive listening devices are available for all performances. Note 2: The Sept. 21 matinee will be audio-described.