The Pajama Game

 

Book by George Abbott and Richard Bissellthe-pajama-game-6222

Music and Lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross

Based on the novel “7 1/2 Cents” by Richard Bissell

Directed by Jess McLeod

Choreographed by Jessica Redish

Musical Direction by Matt Deitchman

At The Music Theatre Company, Highland Park

Fun musical shines in tuneful rendition

In 1954, theatre critic Walter Kerr wrote this about The Pajama Game: “It is a bright, brassy and jubilantly sassy show.” He was right!

Under the direction of Jess McLeod and the spirited choreography by Jessica Redish,  the high-energy, tuneful fluff piece by a couple of young writers, Jerry Ross and Richard Adler emerges as a nice chamber  musical that work well in the intimate space in Highland park.

 Savvy veteran producer, George Abbott (who also co-authored the book), took a chance on Adler and Ross after Rodgers and Hammerstein, Frank Loesser,Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Harold Arlen, and a few others turned it down. The score was completed in less than five weeks! The show ran for 1,063 performances on Broadway in 1954 and the movie was a major hit in 1957 staring Doris Day. Ross and Adler followed with Damn Yankees before Jerry Ross died at age, 29, in 1955.

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The Pajama Game is an ageless fable that has a fresh winning grin on its face from the outset.  It is a vibrant young, funny, earthy and spirited show with a score featuring a wide-ranging mixture of tunes. The Pajama Game is one of my all-time favorite Broadway musicals and the Music Theatre Company’s production serves the piece well.

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Synopsis: A strike seems imminent for the workers of the Sleep-Tite Pajama Factory in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, as the local labor union is up in arms demanding higher wages.  But more than labor relations is brewing in this sleepy Midwestern town.  When the new superintendent at the factory, Sid Sorokin David Sajewich), comes head to head with the leader of the union grievance committee, Babe Williams (Sarah Bockel), sparks of romance fly.  Can new love find its way on the battlefield of labor negotiations?  Will a seven and a half cent raise forever come between Sid and Babe?

Set in the 1950’s, it is called “the first socialist musical” (laugh!).  Based on Richard Bissell’s novel, 71/2 cents, The Pajama Game may contain an antiquated story with situations created so a show stopping number can emerge and is full of (on today’s standards) sexual harassment situations, but—so what! —remember, from the start, the show doesn’t take itself seriously and neither do audiences.  The Pajama Game is pure entertainment delivering witty, sassy and cute tunes with sprinkles of high romantic ballads and toe-tapping anthems and marches. Our grins speak to the show’s appealing zest.

Hines, the time study man played with nerdy aplomb by Jason Richards, lulls us into the pajama factory with the “Racing with the Clock” ensemble number. Richards and Mabel, played by the terrific Nancy Kolton  “I’ll Never Be Jealous Again” that charms us nicely.

David Sajewich as Sid, demonstrates a terrific  voice in “A New Town is a Blue Town” and he melts hearts as he romantically lands “Hey There.” Tyler Ravelson, as Prez, chases the girls, runs the union and sings effectively with Dana Tretta (Gladys) in the cute “Her Is”number..David Sajewich and Sarah Bockel (Babe) evoke romantic sparks in “Small Talk” and “There Once Was A Man.” They sound enchanting in these duets. Bockel’s charisma together with her melodious voice instantly gets us to like her.

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Act Two features Bob Fosse’s classic slick, pigeon-toed, black coat and derby modern jazz dance number, “Steam Heat,” was replaced and scaled down into a comic tune. The show’s only misstep.  

The song, “Think of the Time I Save,” in a tic-tock clock rhythm by Jason Richards’ Hines and the girls, is an ode to efficiency experts that pleases warmly.

The supporting work from the outstanding dance ensemble smoothly kept the manic pace moving with precision in cleverly crafted numbers such as the picnic tune, “Once A Year Day” in act one and the sexy, provocative “Hernando’s Hideaway” tango in act two. Pure delight.

The sixteen songs contain several harmoniously silly songs culminating with the “Seven and One Half Cents” anthem to the workingman. The Pajama Game is a cute show that represents all that is astounding in the vintage American musical.  The Pajama Game is charming, tuneful throw back musical that remind us that understandable lyrics and hummable melodies need be present in order to achieve audience approval. This is a cute, entertaining production of The Pajama Game.

Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: May 2, 20013

For more info checkout The Pajama Game page at theatreinchicago.com

At the Music Theatre company, 1850 Green Bay Road, Highland park, IL, call 847-579-4900, www.themusicaltheatrecompany.org, tickets $32 – $40, Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays at 8 pm, sundaes at 3pm, running time is 2 hours, 15 minutes with intermission, through May 19, 2013