Theater review: Otterbein University presents “Dames at Sea”

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From the July 24, 2014 edition

Stories of the ingénue arriving on Broadway, falling in love, stepping in for the ailing star, and taking the stage by storm cry out for parody. Otterbein’s production of the chamber musical “Dames at Sea” delivers a shipload of affectionate mockery via a raft of endearing performances.

Haley Jones gives that ingénue Ruby a wide-eyed sweetness that capsizes the heart of sailor and songwriter Dick (Sam Parker) even before they realize they’re from the same town in Utah. Ruby befriends showgirl Joan (Courtney Dahl), whose sweetheart Lucky (Ian Taylor) is Dick’s fellow sailor. Setting the course for Dick and his songs is “The Lady Macbeth of 42nd Street,” the diva Mona (Erin Ulman), determined to give Ruby the heave-ho.

When theatre manager Hennesey informs his cast of their venue’s imminent demolition, all are recruited to ship the whole production off to the gunboat on which Dick and Lucky serve under Captain Courageous. Rubber-faced and commanding Jordan Donica navigates his way through the roles of both Hennesey and the Captain, nearly hijacking the whole show. That he also eventually shanghaies the affections of his old flame Mona allows the play to drop anchor with a triple wedding.

The music by Jim Wise and book and lyrics by George Haimsohn and Robin Miller are purposely derivative. Director Doreen Dunn and music director Lori Kay Harvey, who shares keyboard accompaniment duties with Dennis Davenport, keep the blend of tribute and send-up on an even keel. Tap-happy, amusing, tuneful, and buoyant, Otterbein’s “Dames” is definitely see-worthy.