By Diana Saenger
You could almost sense the spirit of 1930’s Hollywood choreographer Busby Berkeley swirling through the house during the opening of North Coast Repertory Theatre’s “Dames at Sea.” Had he been there, Berkeley may have provided the biggest round of applause for a show that is witty and funny with a cast of six who awed the audience with their terrific tap-dance numbers.
The first act introduces Mr. Hennessey (Spencer Rowe) who is about to produce a Broadway show. His star is the over-dramatic, over-demanding Mona Kent (Roxane Carrasco). Also performing in Hennessey’s revue is Joan (Natalie Storrs), a call-it-like-it-is dancer and singer. When young Ruby (Sarah Errington) enters the rehearsal stage straight off the bus from the Centerville, Utah, Hennessey sees no promise in the timid girl, but Joan convinces him to give her a chance.
Soon sailor pals Dick (Jeffrey Scott Parsons) and Lucky (Luke Jacobs) show up and the songs begin. The voices are strong and polished in “Wall Street,” “It’s You,” and “Choo-Choo Honeymoon.”
The show that is created within the show is full of charm, romance, gaiety and a little vaudeville-like drama. Dick likes Ruby who is crazy about him. However, Mona, who plays up to Hennessey, never stops trying to entice Dick into her dressing room. Ruby always catches them in an embrace never welcomed by Dick. Joan has been trying to land Lucky for some time, and with each song and dance number he gets a little closer to making a big decision. Rowe is great as the naive middleman.
The second act takes place aboard a Navy ship at sea. Although the Captain (also played by Rowe) has not officially given his permission for the actors to do their show shipside, they’re all aboard and waiting for the OK.
Outside of the recent “Scottsboro Boys” at the Old Globe, I can’t remember seeing this caliber of tap dancers in a local production in a long time. They are all sensational. They also excel at singing and that rare form of parody — pulling off perfect timing in a rapid-fast plot.
Carrasco delivers the perfect Cruella-De-Ville persona. She sashays, groans, moans, whithers, slinks — whatever it takes — to entice the man-of-the-moment and has the audience in laughter with every action. Errington is great as the timid and bewildered girl thrown into big city life. She knows who she wants, but can she keep him?
Parsons has an amusing expression for every mood of his character. He draws laughs without speaking. Jacobs is the perfect boy-next-door who got away … or did he?
Berkley, known for his large and lavish sets, had a big influence on the “Dames at Sea” writers, and would certainly commend the North Coast Repertory design team, musicians, and director Rick Simas for pulling off a hugely entertaining, don’t-miss show in this intimate theater.
If you go
'Dames at Sea'
Through Aug. 5
North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Suite D, Solana Beach