Music/Lyrics: Richard Adler and Jerry Ross
Book: George Abbott and Richard Bissell
Director: Richard Eyre
Reviewer: John Roberts
There is a charming energy that engulfs this revival of The Pajama Game based on Richard Bissell’s novel 7½ Cents. A musical that has all the ingredients of a classic musical of the era – strong leads, stunning choreography, and deliciously flamboyant characters, throw in the mix a sprinkling of surreal humour and Richard Eyre’s production brings something fresh and unique into the West End.
Babe is a tough working union leader at the Sleep Tite pajama factory, the workers want a pay rise in line with other factories in the area, but she is going to have to not only fight the factory boss but also her new super-intendant, who in true musical fashion has fallen head over heels in love with. When she gets the sack their relationship is put on the rocks, but is everything, as it seems? Will love conquer all and will the buttons actually stay on the pyjama pants?
This warm revival from Eyre showcases a flamboyancy and tongue-in-cheek humour within his directorial decisions that is so often missed in the all too serious West End, he injects what could, in other hands become a rather bland paint by numbers musical. Instead he packs in plenty of surprises and teamed with Stephen Mear’s crisp, clean and cheeky choreography there is plenty to enjoy.
But the real star of the show are the performances, the strong cast pull out all the stops to bring these yester-year characters to life. Joanna Riding is in fine form as leading lady Babe Williams, she shines with a youthful vibrancy that makes her look and feel years younger. A delight to see her back where she really belongs! Michael Xavier as Sid Sorokin does a fine balancing act between impassioned boss and loved up boyfriend, managing to stay on the right side of suave and even in the characters less redeeming moments keep the audience completely on side. Xavier has a delicious legit tenor voice that seems a rarity in the all too popular belt-your-tits off numbers of the modern musical.
Strong support is given from Peter Polycarpou as Vernon Hines and he clearly relishes the chance to play for laughs and have ball on the stage, he partners wonderfully alongside both Alexis Owen-Hobbs as Gladys and Claire Machin as Mabel.
Tim Hatley’s set design is simple yet effective and clearly stays true to the original Chichester Festival Theatre production where this revival originated and the costuming pin-points the era with a retro flair of modernity – it’s all to easy to see the styles in the show making a comeback on the high-streets over the next few years. A strong 10 piece on stage band rounds this musical off perfectly with a strong sound that brings a real depth to Chris Egan’s orchestrations.
To quote the final song of the show “The Pajama Game is quite unlike anything else” classic yet surreal but ultimately enjoyable and for that, we can only say a big thank you!
Photo: Tristram Kenton | Runs until 13th September 2014