Kings of Harlem: The First Must-See Show of the Year

By Mary Damiano

Great sports stories are never about sports.

kings-of-harlem-photo1And Kings of Harlem, a riveting play now at M Ensemble in Miami is a great sports story.  Even though it about a  basketball team, the Harlem Renaissance—the Harlem Rens for short—who were great champions of the Negro leagues before major league sports were integrated and were largely whitewashed from mainstream history, basketball is just the vehicle for a story about men with heart and what they meant to a marginalized community.

Written and directed by Layon Gray, Kings of Harlem begins with an inspiring, powerful speech that Coach “Pops” Coffey (Allan Louis) delivers to his team before the biggest game of their lives in 1939.  Fast forward to present day, in which the coach’s grandson Benjamin Coffey (Ray Lockhart) is delivering a Powerpoint presentation which about the historical significance of the Renaissance Casino and Ballroom, the social hub of Harlem, which has been bulldozed by a corporation.  This prologue lays the groundwork for the story of the Harlem Rens, and seamlessly flows into their story.

And while Kings of Harlem details the Harlem Rens’ championship season that year, culminating with a post-season integrated series, the real story is the men on the team, what drives them, what they mean to their community, and what it means to them to be better, faster and to win more games, yet still be denied the chance to play in the league with their white counterparts.

The scenic design is simple: a basketball court, which serves the few other locales well. And though he is not credited as choreographer, Gray has staged some spectacular moves, not just in the course of the actual game scenes but in rhythmic practice sessions and sequences evoking the jazz and swing era that are absolutely thrilling.

The cast is excellent.  Andre L. Gainey is terrific as JoJo, the oldest player on the team, who takes a fatherly interest in the younger players.  Chris Boldon adds some comic relief as fast-talking Nat, but is also heart-breaking when he relates what drives him. Marquise Rogers shines in a harrowing scene in which his character, Clem, relates a family tragedy. And as Pops, Louis embodies the kind of leader a team would follow anywhere.

This is the first show in M Ensemble’s new space, the Sandrell Rivers Theatre in the Audrey M. Edmondson Transit Village in Miami.  The new venue is handsome and spacious, with a nimble black box space, the kind of home M Ensemble deserves.

As Benjamin Coffey says several times during the play, “History deserves the right to live.” With Kings of Harlem, Gray has created a fitting home for this forgotten piece of history, and has made M Ensemble’s production the first must-see show of the year.  Do not miss it.

Kings of Harlem runs through January 29.  For tickets and more information, visit

World Premiere Play Puts Young Lesbians in Love Center Stage

By Mary Damiano


Andie Arthur

What would you give to have anything your heart desires?  That’s the question posed by Andie Arthur in her new play, Juliet Among the Changelings, which has its world premiere tonight at the Main Street Playhouse in Miami Lakes.  A young adult lesbian romance, the play is produced by the theatre company Arthur co-founded three years ago, Lost Girls Theatre.  In addition to being a playwright, Arthur has been the executive director of the South Florida Theatre League for nearly a decade.  Here, she talks about her inspiration for her play, what it’s like to go from playwright to producer, and why it’s important to see women’s stories on stage.

Where did the idea for Juliet Among the Changelings come from?

I’ve actually been writing a version of this play for about ten years now. I was in a playwriting workshop led by Carlos Murillo, who gave us an exercise where he laid out plot points from various plays and we would pick up one that we didn’t recognize and write a scene from it. And the plot point I picked up was, “A woman gives up her baby for magical powers.” I knew from the moment I read the prompt that I wanted to write a play from the perspective of the baby.  It took a long time before that became the current structure of Juliet Among the Changelings. This play is very much inspired by addiction to reading young adult fantasy novels — which I tend to love because (aside from Twilight) they pretty consistently feature complicated young women with agency. For our theatre company, which has a target audience of young adults, I wanted to write a young adult novel as a play. I simply subverted it by making the love story between two young women and played around with a lot of the tropes of the genre.  It’s also based on Celtic Fairy Lore, which is another long standing place of geekery for me.

Would you say there are themes running through your work?


Sofia Duemichen and Diana Garle

I’m interested in the stories of women, all different kinds of women and all different kinds of experiences of femininity. Genre-wise,  my plays range all over the map. When I get the question what sort of plays do you write, I kinda want to say all of them. My plays have ranged from historical dramas to romantic comedies about the apocalypse, but all of them have centered around a female protagonist.

What have been the biggest challenges producing your first world premiere with your own theatre company?

There’s always a thing when you know something is going be challenging and then actually facing the reality of how challenging it is. As executive director of the South Florida Theatre League, I’ve heard and helped a lot around issues of lack of advance ticket sales and fundraising, but it’s entirely different perspective when you’re in the trenches. I think I will become a much better ED of the League for this experience.

Rather than waiting for a theatre to produce your work, you made it happen on your own.  How daunting is that?

It’s not easy, but I highly recommend it. There’s something so freeing about saying, “Let’s do the work we want to see in the world” instead of complaining that the world doesn’t conform to my standards. This is our first time out and we have learned a lot — and we’ll definitely do things differently in the future — but it’s so nice to be able to make something happen.


Courtney Poston and Jennipher Murphy

What do you want the audience to get from your show?

I hope they enjoy it. The best thing that I could imagine is a young lesbian being able to see herself in this narrative. Of course, she wouldn’t be dealing with the magical part, but she would get to see someone like her on stage. There’s that great Junot Diaz quote about how if you don’t see yourself reflected in culture, you become a vampire. It’s so true. It’s so rare to see a young woman be the lead in a story for the theatre — most of the time they’re love interests or daughters or there for sex appeal, and it’s even rarer for lesbians to see themselves onstage. I hope that we can reach them and that they come out to see themselves on stage.

Juliet Among the Changelings  by Lost Girls Theatre runs through  August 21 at Main Street Playhouse in Miami Lakes.  For tickets and more information, visit

Production photos by Vyvian Figueredo

The World Goes ‘Round Is Out of This World

By Mary Damiano

World Cast 4

Shelley Keelor, Clay Cartland, Jinon Deeb, Michael Scott Ross and Leah Sessa

Chicago. Cabaret. Kiss of the Spider Woman. The Rink. New York, New York. Woman of the Year.  All are legendary shows with songs composed by a legendary team, John Kander and Fred Ebb.

After the success of the revival of Chicago on Broadway, songs from Kander and Ebb shows were fashioned into the musical revue The World Goes ‘Round, which premiered on Broadway in 1991.  It was later revised to include songs from lesser-known shows, and now, South Florida audiences can see MNM Productions’ wildly creative version of that revision, now at the Rinker Playhouse at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach.

The World Goes ‘Round and other revues of its ilk are popular in regional theatre because they’re relatively easy to produce: Five performers, a couple of musicians—bam, there’s a show.  But that’s not now MNM does a revue.  The World Goes ‘Round is magnificently staged, turning a collection of songs into a marvelous, fully-realized show.

World Shelley

Shelley Keelor

The World Goes ‘Round not only showcases a quintet of talented performers, but also showcases its visionary director, Bruce Linser.  What could have been an evening of fine singers performing classic Broadway show tunes with a little choreography thrown in has become a wildly inventive piece of theatre.  Linser has mined each song for humor and poignancy and emotion, created the thread of a love triangle that runs throughout the show and combined songs from different shows in a way that would make Kander and Ebb wonder why they didn’t put them together to begin with.

His staging of each song in The World Goes ‘Round is intricately sculpted into its own vignette, that both stands on its own and also fits within the larger piece.  Ring Them Bells from Liza with a Z becomes a fully acted sketch, while Me and My Baby from Chicago becomes a funny take on our love of modern love of technology. Even the hot-button numbers that you think you know are given a fresh look.  Cabaret, usually a solo star turn, is given a more nuanced Pentatonix-style arrangement that emphasizes harmonies.  And New York, New York is performed as a fun tip of the hat to the Big Apple’s multicultural population.

World Leah Sessa-2

Leah Sessa

In perhaps the most inventive and hilarious piece, Shelley Keelor and Jinon Deeb play a couple of clueless theatre patrons who wander in while the rest of the cast is performing a scene from Chicago, and then, while singing Class, proceed to commit every offense a rude audience member can. It’s a wonderful re-imagining of the song, as well as a lesson to the audience.  (It didn’t have an effect on everyone though, as some patrons still left the show while the cast was taking their bows.  Hey Traffic-Beaters:  You were rude and you missed a terrific encore.)

Harmonies are tight and fluid.  The ensemble numbers such as Money from Chicago and Coffee in a Cardboard Cup from 70, Girls 70 are great fun—the cast even performs on roller skates for the title song from The Rink—but each member of the cast also gets a show-stopping moment.  Leah Sessa gets two biggies, doing a fan-Fosse-tastic job with All That Jazz from Chicago, and then later delivering a powerful solo on the torchy Maybe This Time from Cabaret, that prompted several people to give her a standing ovation.  Clay Cartland shows off his thrilling voice on Kiss of the Spider Woman and silently displays his athleticism while Sessa sings the bawdy Arthur in the Afternoon from The Act.  Keelor is lovely and poignant on Colored Lights from The Rink, which also features a young skater, Olivia Rose Chiampou. Michael Scott Ross brought more than one tear to audience members’ eyes with Sometimes a Day Goes By from Woman of the Year, and Deeb, who opens the show with the titular song, also shines on Ring Them Bells and in her other duet with Keelor, The Grass is Always Greener from Woman of the Year.

world 2 Leah Clay

Clay Catland and Leah Sessa

Even musical director Paul Reekie, who helms a killer five-piece band, gets into the act, singing Mr. Cellophane from Chicago, while the rest of the cast illustrate what it’s like for a singer to perform in a bar with rowdy patrons.

To bridge the gap between the intimate club set and the cavernous Rinker Theatre, the singers sometimes move through the audience. Kimberly Dawn Smith’s choreography is nimble and sexy and fun.  Jayson Thomasheski’s lighting design is beautifully evocative, while Kenny Reiss’s sound is flawless. Linda Shorrock’s costumes are sexy and imaginative.

Even if you’ve heard these Kander and Ebb songs before, you’ve never heard them like this.  And even if you’ve see The World Goes ‘Round before, you’ve never seen it like this.  Don’t miss it.

The World Goes ‘Round runs through August 21 at the Rinker Playhouse at Kravis Center in West Palm Beach.  For tickets and information, visit

All photos by George Wentzler


Drag Take on Gilligan’s Island Is No Drag

By Mary Damiano

GFICast1 Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale…

This is not your father’s Gilligan’s Island, unless dear old dad did drag.

Those lovable stranded castaways from the iconic 1960s’ TV show are back in the hilarious romp, Gilligan’s Fire Island, now playing for two more weekends at Empire Stage in Fort Lauderdale.

Written by Jamie Morris, who also appears in dual roles as both Thurston and Lovey Howell, Gilligan’s Fire Island is both a loving tribute and gay reboot. The result plays just like a lost episode of the show:  The castaways are thrown into a tizzy when a mysterious stranger from the future somehow winds up on the island possessing a device with the power to get them rescued.

In this case, that stranger is narcissistic, social media-obsessed reality star Cody, (Kyle Garcia) who is on a ferry making his first trip to Fire Island. After dissing an onboard performance by a drag queen, Cody gets knocked out.  Cut to that familiar island, brought to life in full tropical splendor by Michael McClain, and those familiar castaways, who discover Cody unconscious. Just about every cliché from the TV show is played out to perfection over the course of the play

The thing that makes Gilligan’s Fire Island work so well is that the TV show characters play it relatively straight, meaning that except for them being vaguely aware that they all look exactly the same as they did in 1964 when the series began, despite being stranded on the island for more than 50 years, they are simply the characters as we remember them.GFI2Cast

All of this could have gone horribly wrong in so many ways.  But Morris is skillful preserving the integrity of the show while injecting it with a great big shot of modern sensibility.

Garcia has the job of creating the only original character for the bulk of the show, and, as Cody, he takes the stereotypical, self-absorbed D-List celebrity to new heights—and new lows—meaning he’s really good at being really annoying, and in this case, that’s a good thing.

The rest of the cast is tasked with both embodying the characters we love, while bringing a little something extra to fit the premise.  They all succeed beautifully and together create a tight ensemble.

David Tracy is petite, pig-tailed Mary Ann, and he captures the farm girl’s voice and can-do attitude.  Morris gets huge laughs as the Howells—his quick costume changes often have hilarious results. Ben Prayz is the Professor, and from the looks of Prayz, the Professor has spent his time on the island working out his brawn as well as his brain. Scott Travis, as the Skipper, fits the bill both physically and with his bumbling good nature. Mike Westrich is the perfect Gilligan, and while he doesn’t get as much stage time as the other characters, he makes every moment count by channeling the little buddy we all remember.

But Trevor Peringer, who plays Ginger, steals the show.  Peringer’s height really fills out the movie star’s many slinky evening gowns, and he has Ginger’s breathless, whispery voice and deer-in-the-headlights befuddlement down pat.  His timing is also spot-on, and he knows how to wring every last laugh out of each moment.

If you want a laugh-out-loud evening at the theatre, Gilligan’s Fire Island is not to be missed.

Gilligan’s Fire Island runs through August 14 at Empire Stage in Fort Lauderdale.  For tickets and more information, visit


A Classic Sitcom Gets the Slasher Treatment at Infinite Abyss

By Mary Damiano

Erynn Dalton

Erynn Dalton

To look at Erynn Dalton in all her bubbly, blonde loveliness, you’d never think that her tastes run to the macabre.


“It’s a fascination I’ve had as long as I can remember,” says Dalton.  “I was an early reader, and I distinctly remember reading Jaws when I was only six years old. Guess my mom and dad weren’t really concerned about what books I was getting my hands on.  I moved pretty quickly from Jaws to Stephen King, and I suppose my tastes were pretty much warped from that point on.”

Dalton’s theatre company, Infinite Abyss, specializes in immersive horror theatre.  And even when the company does more mainstream plays, they tend to be dark; in the past year they produced Bug, about a paranoid man and the woman who gets pulled into his world, and Extremities, about a rape survivor who captures her rapist.

But Infinite Abyss also does the lighter side of dark, such as their recent labor of love, The Rocky Horror Show, and their current project, Come and Knock on Our Door.


Cast members of Come and Knock on Our Door

Come and Knock on Our Door, as any die-hard sitcom fan knows, is the opening lyric to the theme song of Three’s Company.  For the uninitiated, Three’s Company ran on ABC from 1977 to 1984.  The original cast was comprised of  John Ritter as Jack, Suzanne Somers as Chrissy, Joyce DeWitt as Janet, Norman Fell and Audra Lindley as Mr. and Mrs. Roper, and Richard Kline as Larry.  The premise was quite risqué for the era: In order to share an apartment with Janet and Chrissy, straight guy Jack had to pretend to be gay so their prudish landlord Mr. Roper wouldn’t kick him out.  Cast changes and hijinks ensued for eight seasons.

At Infinite Abyss, Come and Knock on Our Door takes on a more sinister bent.  In this version, written by Dalton and Fernando Baron II,  it’s 1979 in Southern California and Jack is a killer.  His roommates are oblivious to his murderous tendencies but his landlord is suspicious and calls in a detective to investigate. The structure is that of a live TV sitcom taping, complete with a comedian from local improv troupe The Sick Puppies. Audience members are encouraged to come dressed in 1970s’ attire.

Infinite Abyss2

The Roommates of Come and knock on Our Door

“Though we tend to focus on dark themes, with all of the horrible news of late related to terrorism and a tense atmosphere due to politics, we wanted to do something light and funny while still remaining true to our horror roots,” Dalton says. “Fernando and I are big fans of both older sitcoms and horror, and the concept was born from a late night Facebook instant message session. The best ideas, at least for us, always seem to come organically during conversation, and this one was no different,” says Dalton, who also directed this world premiere.

Come and Knock on Our Door is the first show in Infinite Abyss’s Slasher Sitcom Series.  The plan is to produce one  installment each season.

“We’re already working on our next one that will be a slasher sitcom parody of  The Brady Bunch, says Dalton.  “This one will be called MEAT- The Untold Story of Sam the Butcher. That will go on stage next summer and will be tons of fun!”

Come and Knock on Our Door runs through Sunday at Infinite Abyss in Wilton Manors.  For tickets and more information, visit


Once Upon a Mattress at FAU is a Theatrical Delight

By Mary Damiano


Emily Freeman and Eytan Deray

I had never seen Once Upon a Mattress, the charming musical based on the fairy tale The Princess and the Pea.  Musicals are not like movies.  You can’t get them on demand; you have to wait for someone to actually produce them.  So I was thrilled when I saw that Florida Atlantic University was doing Once Upon a Mattress in Boca Raton, finally giving me the chance to see the musical that made Carol Burnett a star.

This production is not traditional.  Director Bruce Linser gives it the framework of a troupe of performers presenting the show at a Renaissance festival.  Keeping with that concept, Once Upon a Mattress has lively pre-show entertainment, with members of the ensemble stilt-walking, juggling, and interacting with the audience.

Queen Dauntless2

Maribeth Graham and Eytan Deray

What follows is an absolute delight, a confection of a show that walks the balance beam between bawdy and innocent, with hilarious results.  The plot goes like this: Queen Aggravain (Maribeth Graham) has declared that no one in the kingdom can marry until her son, Prince Dauntless (Eytan Deray) marries. But she is much too attached to her son and puts each wannabe bride through tests the poor girls cannot possibly pass. Frustrations are running high in the kingdom, especially for lissome Lady Larken (Tara Collandra) who faces scandal in about nine months if she can’t marry handsome Sir Harry (Jordan Armstrong) who, learning of their date with the stork, rides off in search of a princess for the prince. Enter Princess Winnifred (Emily Freeman) a smart and sassy tomboy with all the girlish grace of a gopher. And while Winnifred endears herself to the prince and the rest of the court, the queen is unmoved.  Hijinks ensue on the bumpy road to would-be wedlock.


Emily Freeman

FAU students and a few guest artists make up the cast.  Graham is deliciously hissable as Queen Aggravain, while you can’t help but root for her mute, henpecked hubby, King Sextimus, played by Barry Tarallo, who gets to put his pantomime skills to good use.  Deray gives Prince Dauntless an effeminate edge that is ripe for laughs.  As Winnifred, Freeman displays a goofy charm and a willingness to do anything for a laugh.

Once Upon a Mattress boasts a strong cast that delivers a delightful few hours of theatre.

Once Upon a Mattress runs through July 31 at FAU in Boca Raton.  For tickets and more information, call 800-564-9539 or visit

1776: Last Weekend to See Spectacular Production

By Mary Damiano

Gary Cadwallader & Laura Hodos in 1776

Gary Cadwallader and Laura Hodos in 1776

I don’t usually review shows in their closing weekends, but when a production like 1776 comes along, well, to crib a line from Arthur Miller and this show, attention must be paid.

As a history buff, 1776, which details the events leading to the signing of the Declaration of Independence,  has always been one of my favorites—the film version is a staple of my July 4th celebration.  Palm Beach Dramaworks’ 1776 is both timely and inventive, and shows how little has changed in 240 years.

Director Clive Cholerton has employed a clever concept for this production of the patriotic musical, giving it a prologue and epilogue showing that politics in these Untied States has been a combative, even dirty, business since day one. And, in order to stage a traditional musical with a large cast and still keep within a modern budget, Cholerton double and even triple-cast his ensemble, with an interesting twist: nearly each actor plays a representative on each side of the argument for American independence.

I’ll admit I was skeptical about how that would work.  But all doubt was gone within the first few minutes. The casting idea comes off seamlessly in show.  The production is so energetic that there is always something to draw focus while an actor is slipping out for a quick costume change in order to make an entrance as someone else.  Sometimes the change is even faster—several times Matthew Korinko, who plays delegates James Wilson and George Read, delivers his line, changes his coat onstage and delivers the next line as the other character.  The production is so well done that there is little confusion in these character changes, and the whole thing is fascinating to watch.

Nicholas Richberg in 1776

Nicholas Richberg in 1776

There’s not a weak link in the cast.  Gary Cadwallader delivers a bravura performance as the impassioned, independence-obsessed  John Adams; Allan Baker’s Ben Franklin is affable but with an edge.  Nicholas Richberg is hilariously flamboyant as Richard Henry Lee and sternly villainous as John Dickinson. Laura Hodos is John Hancock, but her gorgeous soaring voice is really showcased as Abigail Adams.  Clay Cartland is at his brash best as Thomas Jefferson.  And Shane Tanner, playing slave-proponent Edward Rutledge, nearly stops the show with his powerful, spine-tingling performance of Molasses to Rum.

There couldn’t be a better time to see 1776.  Because in this tumultuous political climate, in which no one is certain about where the country is going, it makes sense to see how it all began and be reminded of the principles that lead to the founding of the United States of America.

1776 runs through Sunday at Palm Beach Dramaworks in West Palm Beach.  For more information and tickets, visit

The Wedding Warrior Goes on Tour

By Mary Damiano

Casey Dressler is taking her show on the road.

CaseyThe talented actress and writer will hold three fundraising performances of her hilarious and insightful one-woman show, The Wedding Warrior, at The Florida Keys History Discovery Center in her hometown of Islamorada, Friday, July 29 through Sunday, July 31.

The Wedding Warrior is an autobiographical play detailing Dressler’s days as a wedding planner in the Florida Keys.  In the show, Dressler portrays more than a dozen characters, including a Cuban, weed-smoking cigar roller; a stern, detail-oriented mother-of-the-bride; a maid of honor with food issues; a low-key busboy; and a southernism-spouting hotel clerk.

The fundraiser performances will help Dressler with the expenses involved in getting her play to Fringe NYC in August as well as Chicago Fringe Festival in September.

I  saw The Wedding Warrior last year when it was featured at the Fort Lauderdale Fringe Fest.  The show is a delight, and not only showcases Dressler’s talent for morphing from one character to another, but also her skill for creating the characters and bringing them from page to stage.

For more information on The Wedding Warrior and to purchase tickets to the Islamorada performances, visit


Daniel’s Husband: Breathtaking and Heartbreaking

World Premiere Play Illustrates the Importance of Marriage

By Mary Damiano

Alex Alvarez and Antonio Amadeo

Alex Alvarez and Antonio Amadeo

Wear waterproof mascara and bring lots of tissues.

That’s the best advice for anyone going to see Daniel’s Husband, the new play by Michael McKeever, now receiving its world premiere at Island City Stage in Fort Lauderdale.

McKeever introduces us to Daniel a successful architect, and Mitchell a successful writer, who appear to be the perfect couple. The play opens as the couple is entertaining friends at a lively dinner party. Daniel cooks gourmet meals, Mitchell cleans up, they play games and discuss marriage, an institution that Mitchell does not believe in, for gay or straight couples. The subject is a sore point for Daniel, who has wanted to marry Mitchell from their romantic first date. Mitchell is adamant in his refusal to believe a piece of paper can change anything in their relationship.

Antonio Amadeo, Laura Turnbull and Alex Alvarez

Antonio Amadeo, Laura Turnbull and Alex Alvarez

But when the unthinkable happens, Mitchell realizes just how much that piece of paper can change a relationship and how important it really is.

This is an elegant play, with no wasted space, no filler. Each scene presents new information and emotion, and in about eight short scenes over 90 minutes, the audience is taken on an emotional ride from belly laughs to heart-wrenching sobs.

Antonio Amadeo, a terrific actor missing too long from South Florida stages, delivers a brilliant, indelible performance as Mitchell. The emotion bubbling up inside and then pouring out of him is heart-wrenching to watch.

As Daniel, Alex Alvarez, turns in another fine performance full of passion and heartbreak. Alvarez is a big teddy bear of a man who beautifully portrays Daniel’s journey.

Antonio Amadeo, Alex Alvarez, Larry Buzzeo and Kristian Bikic

Antonio Amadeo, Alex Alvarez, Larry Buzzeo and Kristian Bikic

Laura Turnbull, who plays Daniel’s mother Lydia, embodies a Pride flag-waving society mom with too much time on her hands, a woman whose love can be a liability. Turnbull imbues Lydia enough shades of grey that make her hard to hate, despite her actions.

They are ably supported by Larry Buzzeo and Kristian Bikic as friends who round out this talented cast. Except for Turnbull, this is the same cast that appeared in the staged reading of Daniel’s Husband presented at Lynn University in January.

Director Andy Rogow has assembled the designers that have made such excellent use of Island City Stage’s intimate space. Michael McClain’s scenic design is perfectly tasteful and upscale, Preston Bircher’s lighting is atmospheric and David Hart’s sound punctuates the drama.

Daniel’s Husband is a play everyone should see, not only because it’s fine drama at its best, but also because it has the ability to change minds about marriage and call to action those who have not taken proper steps to ensure their future wishes are respected. Don’t miss this brilliant production.

Daniel’s Husband runs through June 28 at Island City Stage in Fort Lauderdale. Some performances are already sold out. For tickets and more information, visit

Dames at Sea: Set Sail for a Good Time


The Wick Launches a Nearly Flawless Musical Production

By Mary Damiano

DamesSeaA young girl with tap shoes in her suitcase and a prayer in her heart steps off the bus from Utah and onto the Broadway stage when the leading lady can’t go on—sound familiar? It should, to anyone familiar with Hollywood musicals from the early 1930s, like 42nd Street and Gold Diggers of 1933.

That’s the premise of Dames at Sea, both an irresistible send-up and loving homage to those gloriously sappy backstage musicals of that long-ago era. The clever part about Dames at Sea, now playing at The Wick in Boca Raton, is that the lavish look is pulled off with a cast of six, instead of oodles of chorus boys and girls.

And what a cast it is. The cast works well as an ensemble, but each gets moments and songs to shine.

Laura Hodos is delicious as the leading lady, Mona Kent, who has two speeds: diva and ultra-diva. Hodos portrays her with gusto, sinking her teeth into every one of Mona’s histrionics as well as her penchant for mispronounced words. Her performance of the torchy That Mister Man of Mine, along with some inventive staging involving silhouetted performers behind a skrim, is one of the highlights of the show.

Gabriel Zenone does double duty as both the fast-talking director, Hennesey, and the upper-crust captain of the ship where the show within a show takes place. Zenone creates two distinct characters and is very funny as both.

Alison McCartan plays the wise-cracking chorus girl, Joan, the kind of role actress Joan Blondell usually played, and Blake Spellacy is her sailor boyfriend, Lucky. The two are great dancers and have terrific comic timing.

Dames1Alex Jorth has appeared in many productions at The Wick, most notably last year’s 42nd Street, a musical based on one of the movies Dames at Sea spoofs. Here he plays sailor and aspiring songwriter Dick, based on the young leads that Dick Powell used to play. Jorth is an excellent dancer and, with his boy-next-door looks, makes an affable leading man.

As young ingénue Ruby, based on the roles actress Ruby Keeler made famous, Lindsay Bethea, is wonderful. She sparkles whenever she’s onstage, whether she’s tapping her heart out on Star Tar or wallowing in her broken heart on Raining in My Heart, and her boop-boop-a-doop voice elicits either laughter or sympathy from the audience.

Michael Ursua’s direction is tight and fluid. He keeps the show bouncing along without a single wasted moment. This is a spare, compact musical, but both Ursua and the design team give it a lavish look. The scenic design, by Thomas Mitchell and Jim Buff, consists of only two sets, the backstage of a theatre and a navy ship, but both are impressive. The projections by Josieu Jean, which mimic the title credits to an old movie, set the mood and are a nice touch.

The Wick’s execution is nearly flawless. From the excellent cast to the design elements, Dames at Sea is a rollicking good time.

Dames at Sea runs through May 31 at The Wick in Boca Raton. For tickets and more information, visit