‘Dames at Sea’ is campy fun

(left to right) Sam Shankman (Lucky), Sierra Schnack (Joan), Kelly Felthous (Ruby) and Todd Aulwurm (Dick) at Theatre at the Center, (Photo by Brett Beiner)
(left to right) Sam Shankman (Lucky), Sierra Schnack (Joan), Kelly Felthous (Ruby) and Todd Aulwurm (Dick) at Theatre at the Center, (Photo by Brett Beiner)

3 stars

What’s not to love about a show that opens with a rousing tap number? Nothing, it turns out. “Dames at Sea,” the newest production at the Theatre at the Center in Munster, IN, is pure campy fun, from the first minute to the last.

It follows the story of Ruby. She’s fresh off the bus from Utah and in search of a career as a dancer on Broadway. She hasn’t eaten in three days, forgets her suitcase on the bus in her rush to get a job as a dancer, falls into a job dancing on a chorus line in a Broadway production, and catches the eye of a sailor who pledges his love for her — all in the delightful course of her first day in New York.

“Dames at Sea” is a long-running, Off Broadway hit that made Bernadette Peters a star in 1969. Kelly Felthous, the tiny blond firecracker who plays Ruby, channels her inner Bernadette Peters in this production, complete with spunky tapping, high-pitched voice and impish smile. (Ashley Lanyon takes over the role of Ruby from May 22-June 2.)

Collette Todd knocks it out of the theater as the hilariously narcissistic Mona Kent, a star who needs to see her name in lights. She has a fit when the marquee proclaims “Moan,” not Mona, Kent as starring in the show.

Sierra Schnack belts it out as Joan, the long-time chorus girl who has everyone’s number, especially Mona’s.

Todd Aulwurm does a fine job as Dick, the Navy man who wants to be a songwriter. He falls in love the second he lays eyes on Ruby, but gets into trouble when Mona sets her sights on him, dangling the promise of helping him break into the song-writing business.

Sam Shankman does a fine job as Lucky, the sailor who loves Joan. Steven Strafford steals the spotlight in dual roles as Hennesey, the hapless theater director, and The Captain of the Navy battleship.

The already silly show takes a turn to the farcical when the actors discover the theater where they are set to debut their show is being demolished – while they are in the middle of rehearsals

The sailor boys offer a solution: They can move the show to the battleship. All it takes is agreement from The Captain, who, it turns out, is a former beau of Mona’s.

The ensuing silliness had us smiling so hard my cheeks hurt at the end of the show, which wraps with a triple wedding – Ruby and Dick, Joan and Lucky and Mona and The Captain.

Note: The 410 seats at the Theatre at the Center wrap around the stage. While the actors did a good job of playing to the left and right, the center seats are definitely the place to be for this show.

DETAILS: Dames at Sea is playing at the Theatre at the Center, 1040 Ridge Road, Munster, IN, through June 2. Running time: 1 hr, 42 minutes with one intermission. For tickets and more information call  (219) 836-3255, (800) 511-1532 or visit  TheatreAtTheCenter.

Cindy Richards

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago


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