Amy Beddows 5:26 p.m., June 18
"When I look into those big brown eyes of yours," Dick says to Ruby, "there's only one thing I want to do - SING!"
Dames at Sea's a loving spoof of the Busby-Berkeley-directed glitz-blitzes of the 1930s - Gold Diggers, 42nd Street, Dames - which counter the Great Depression with kaleidoscopic routines and over-the-top optimism.
"Dick" recalls Dick Powell and "Ruby", Ruby Keeler, who vow that the show must go on against all odds (as in "Listen to Dick, everyone, even though it's hopeless!").
But instead of seemingly thousands of dancers gleaming like diamonds, the Jim Wise (music), George Haimsohn/Robin Miller (book and lyrics) musical comedy shrinks the spectacle to six performers. The result, like looking backwards through a telescope, is as humble as Berkeley was baroque.
What the show keeps is the spirit of the originals. In 24 hours Ruby rises from a penniless nobody, just off the bus from Centerville, Utah, to - "gee whiz!" - a major star. And Dick, a young sailor (also, the wonders never cease, from Centerville), produces hit song after hit song as if on automatic pilot.
Dames at Sea's just a one-note script, but for lovers of musicals, it's a great note and always feels fresh, in part because it parodies all the "let's do a show" cliches. One of the most frequent, and funniest, is the leap from sight-reading a song to a full production number - no rehearsals, no down time; just a pure vault from the page to pizzazz.
These leaps, creations by fiat, mirror those of Ruby an Dick.
The paring down has attractions but lacks that sound - the one that chills the spines of hoofer aficionados: a stage loaded with tap dancers clacking as one.
Director Rick Simas assembled a game cast at North Coast Rep. Sarah Errington gives Ruby an appropriately innocent, deer-in-the-headlights look, and does a fine version of "Raining in My Heart." Jeffrey Scott Parsons' Dick is equally wide-eyed, and his tap competition with Lucky (Luke Jacobs) is a highlight. Their feet really fly.
A persistent problem hinders the number and the production in general, however. Marty Burnett's set must include a three piece band, in the rear, and two locations: a brick-walled backstage in New York and on board a Navy battleship. These demands leave only a small playing space, down front, and heads in the audience often block sight-lines.
Natalie Storrs' worldly-wise Joan wisecracks ("ya big lug") and sings "Good Times Are Here to Stay" with gruff panache. Versatile Spencer Rowe is double-cast as workaholic Mr. Hennesey and the suave Navy Captain. Though her voice often strains to find the note (by design?) Roxanne Carrasco's stagey gestures as Mona Kent are a hoot.
Renetta Lloyd's costumes and Peter Herman's coiled-hair wigs are a plus, and the dinky amounts of time the cast has to change must verge on Guinness Book records.