Musical with music by Jim Wise and book and lyrics by George Haimsohn and Robin Miller. Aspiring starlet Ruby wins her first role in a new show, Dames at Sea. She promptly falls for handsome composer Dick, but doesn't bargain for devious diva Mon, who has designs on Dick herself. Calamity strikes when the theatre is demolished just before opening night, but Dick and his pal Lucky just happen to be sailors on leave from the navy. So what could be better than Dames at Sea... at SEA!
Original London West End production (Duchess Theatre) - 1969
Previewed 18 August 1969, Opened 27 August 1969, Closed 6 December 1969 at the Duchess Theatre
The cast featured Joyce Blair as 'Mona Kent', Rita Burton as 'Joan', Kevin Scott as 'Hennessey', Shelia White as 'Ruby', Blayne Barrington as 'Dick', William Ellis as 'Lucky' and Kevin Scott as 'The Captain'. Directed by Neal Kenyon with designs by Peter Harvey.
1st West End Revival (Ambassadors Theatre) - 1996
Previewed 28 May 1996, Opened 29 May 1996, Closed 15 June 1996 at the Ambassadors Theatre
The cast featured Kim Criswell as 'Mona Kent', Sara Crowe as 'Joan', Peter Duncan as 'The Captain / Hennesey', Joanne Farrel as 'Ruby', Jason Gardiner as 'Dick' and Jon Peterson as 'Lucky'. Directed by John Garyne with choreography by Lindsay Dolan, sets by James Hendy, costumes by Alison Cartledge, lighting by Tim Mitchell and sound by Fergus O'Hare. Presented as part of the 1996 Covent Garden Festival. Peter Duncan's West End credits include Pump Boys and Dinettes at the Piccadilly Theatre in 1985.
"Dames at Sea is the quintessence of theatrical camp: a nudging, knowing spoof of those thirties Hollywood musicals that invariably starred Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell. A New York cult hit of the late sixties, it revels in its own absurdity but it lacks the key quality that distinguished the originals: a burnished innocence... What motors the show, however, is the parodic accuracy of Jim Wise's music and George Haimsohn and Robin Miller's lyrics. The torch song, the beguine, the deckhands' dance with mops, the umbrella-twirling number, all of them remind you of their prototypes and add a sardonic twist of their own... John Gardyne's production keeps its tongue firmly in its cheek, and the cast of six put it across with great style: in particular Joanne Farrell as the wide-eyed heroine, Kim Criswell as the man-eater she displaces and Sara Crowe as the sidekick who cracks wise in the best Joan Blondell tradition." The Guardian
"A witty, outrageous yet always affectionate and accurate pastiche of a long-ago art form which relied entirely on escapism for its existence. Indeed it is the accuracy of its music and Iyrics which carries it way beyond the confines of mere high camp. Each song is strong enough to stand on its own as: a record of that era of Depression defying bravado, every one an insistent echo of a number from some cherished movie starring either Ruby, Ginger, Dick or Joan and preferably all four... Of course, long after Messrs Haimson and Miller had mined all these artificial nuggets from the genre, the stage musical of 42nd Street finally realised the wealth of authentic material to hand and rather swamped their fragile froth of fun. However it is good to see that this six-handed miniature spoof still has its sea legs in tip-tap order. John Gardyne's production is all shipshape with style, polish and verve. And while it is the three females who inevitably shine on all fronts, there is an energetic ensemble attack throughout which is as exhilarating as a stiff sea breeze." The Daily Mail
"Dames at Sea is based on a joke so thin you worry it might be anorexic. All credit, therefore, to an energetic cast of six who, backed only by a pair of pianos and drums, present two fizzy and deliciously funny hours as part of London's Covent Garden Festival. Directed in suitable tongue-in-cheek fashion by John Gardyne, Dames At Sea is a send-up of all those pre-war American backstage musicals where the innocent chorus girl taps her troubles away and becomes a star in the time it takes to whistle 42nd Street... With lots of undistinguished but fun songs by Jim Wise, George Haimsohn and Robin Miller and a witty book by the latter two, Dames At Sea is as refreshing as a voyage up to the Hudson River on a sunny summer afternoon." The New of the World
"An incorrigibly camp and affectionate tribute to the Hollywood musicals of Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler, using the 1933 backstage movie 42nd Street as a springboard. For entirely spurious reasons or, rather, their theatre is demolished the second act 'show' takes place on a battleship... Jim Wise's music, with book and lyrics by George Haimsohn and Robin Miller, is an enjoyable hotch-potch of Thirties song styles,... John Gardyne's production is thrown together in a haphazard, amateur fashion, which is part of its charm. The other part is the presence of such luminous talents as Kim Criswell as Mona and Sara Crowe, Peter Duncan and John Peterson in support." The Observer
Dames at Sea in London at the Ambassadors Theatre previewed from 28 May 1996, opened 29 May 1996 and closed on 15 June 1996