Robert Tanitch reviews The Pajama Game at Shaftesbury Theatre, London WC2
THE PAJAMA GAME won the award for best musical on Broadway in 1954. Richard Adler and Jerry Ross wrote the music and lyrics. George Abbott was the director and Bob Fosse was choreographer. Fosse also won an Oscar.
The Book by George Abbott and Richard Bissell was based on Bissell’s novel, Seven-and-a-half-cents, which was set in the Sleep-Tite Pajama Factory in Iowa. The workers want a pay rise. The dishonest boss stalls for time. The workers threaten to go on strike.
Industrial action might seem a more suitable subject for a musical by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill or Marc Blitzstein. But The Pajama Game is not agit-prop theatre. It’s in a much lighter, more frivolous comedy vein.
Richard Eyre, who directs the present enjoyable production, which was originally seen at Chichester last year, rates it highly and puts it in the same bracket as Guys and Dolls and How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.
The handsome works superintendent falls in love with the sexy head of Union’s Grievance Committee. Surely, he wouldn’t sack her? But what if she committed industrial sabotage? And what would happen to their relationship if he did sack her? The chemistry is good between Joanna Riding and Michael Xavier. You believe they want to get into each other’s pajamas.
There are plenty of good songs and good musical comedy playing from the cast to keep most audiences happy. Peter Polycarpou and Claire Machin have the first show-stopping number: I’ll Never Be Jealous Again. Xavier, with the aid of a Dictaphone, has a delightful duet with himself, Hey There, You with the Stars in Your Eyes.
Steam Heat gets really hot with Alexis Owen-Hobbs, Dan Burton, Richard Jones and jets of steam. Stephen Mear’s inventive and energetic choreography gives the musicals he choreographs a big lift every time and his routines for Once-A-Year-Day, Hernando’s Hideaway and Seven-and-a-Half-Cents do just that.
You may be surprised to learn that There Once Was A Man and A New Town is a Blue Town were actually written by Frank Loesser though he never got a credit.