We’re thrilled to share this story from “Dames at Sea” Music Director Terry LaBolt. This week Terry reached out to Tim and Jennifer Perrino of Cincinnati Landmark Productions to see if they might still have a photo or two of their production of “Dames” from 1974 on the Showboat Majestic, which was formerly owned by Indiana University, hosting productions between 1948 and 1973!
To our surprise and delight, what Tim aptly described as a “small trove of items”, scanned photos and newspaper clippings, appeared almost instantaneously in our email inboxes. Here we share Terry’s reminiscences and a few of these treasures from his first paid job in theatre.
When I began rehearsals for IU Summer Theatre’s production of Dames at Sea this month, I was flooded with memories from over 40 years ago. Back when I was in college, my very first job in theatre was “Dames,” aboard the Showboat Majestic in Cincinnati. I did many other shows there during my college years, but “Dames” remains special, a kind of first-born.
Back then tickets were a whole dollar and a half for Thursday and Sunday performances and an extra quarter if you wanted to come Friday or Saturday!
As I began rehearsals this month at IU (remember I had not done the show since 1974), my memories of that first cast and the score (even the handwriting of the score engraver) were vivid. But now, with a lifetime of experiences, it is even more joyous to explore this delightful pastiche of the 1930’s movie musicals. Long before 42nd Street or the famous No, No Nanette revival, the characters in “Dames” poked gently at the predictable movie plots. The characters of Ruby (after Ruby Keeler) and Dick (after Dick Powell) fall in love in the course of one song (as it always happened), and the theater is going to be demolished (of course).
It is so exciting to have a new set of youngsters discovering this genre. All the historical references (“Aimee Semple and Shirley Temple”, “Jean Harlow and Gretta Garbo”) are forever part of my vocabulary, but the period costumes, jazzy razz-ma-tazzy lingo, and the ever-present tap routines are delightful discoveries for these 18-20 somethings. And every day when I see them in rehearsal, I am reminded of myself as that young college freshman, teaching music to a cast for the very first time so many years ago.
This summer’s production in the Wells-Metz Theatre, directed by Kenneth L. Roberson, is a joyful start to the 2017 Summer Season. Sets and lighting are designed by 2017 MFA graduates Kevin Nelson and Matthew Wofford, respectively, and the costumes are creations courtesy of the Department’s head of costume design, Linda Pisano.
The original 1974 cast members have had various careers, among them Broadway performer, television reporter, minister, composer/lyricist, and director choreographer. A recent social media post about doing “Dames” this summer garnered many comments from this first cast. Jim Walton, the original “Dick” is currently in the Broadway company of Sunset Boulevard with Glenn Close. As the summer progresses I look forward to connecting that first cast with this new production!