The Pajama Game

Theatre, Musicals
 (© Tristram Kenton)
© Tristram KentonAlexis Owen Hobbs
 (© Tristram Kenton)
© Tristram KentonJoanna Riding and Michael Xavier
 (© Tristram Kenton)
© Tristram KentonJoanna Riding
 (© Tristram Kenton)
© Tristram Kenton
 (© Tristram Kenton)
© Tristram Kenton

Fat cat managers cooking the books, robotic middlemen preaching to workers about the creed of efficiency – though this glorious, exuberant musical is set in President Eisenhower’s America it strikes plenty of sparks in the twenty-first-century.

Adler and Ross’s ‘The Pajama Game’ may sound like the perfect embodiment of ’50s sensibilities, but while it was an ideal film vehicle for Doris Day, the whipcrack wit and pace of Richard Eyre’s production scotches any idea this is a museum piece.

We begin on the floor of the Sleep Tite Pajama factory. Sewing machines are whirring, the time and motion man is pacing, and the gutsy chorus of factory women is delivering opening number ‘Hurry Up’ as they frantically stitch sleepwear. ‘I can tell you precisely per second how many stitches go into a pair of pajamas’, declares Peter Polycarpou as prickly manager Vernon Hines – but he’s not the only one counting. The workers want a seven and a half cent raise and they’ll stop at nothing to get it.

The battle lines seem fairly straightforward, but then handsome Sid Sorokin, the new superintendent from Chicago, has his first encounter with Babe Williams, the tough-talking head of the grievance committee. The moment she sings ‘I’m Not At All in Love’ we know what’s coming – the only real suspense in this musical is in the waistband elastic of the pajama trousers – and sure enough the factory picnic sees their romance blossom.

So far so formulaic, yet where Eyre’s production delights is not just Stephen Mear’s dazzlingly dynamic choreography, but in the comically gritty detail of the characterisation. When Joanna Riding’s Babe picks up an onion on her first date with Michael Xavier’s Sid, you feel she’s as likely to use it as a weapon as a basis for an omelette, while their Western-style love song ‘There Once Was A Man’ is spirited declaration of equals. In the parallel comedic love story – which features Hines’s green-eyed obsession with Alexis Owen-Hobbs’s sizzling Gladys – weapons are a genuine problem. His drowning of his sorrows in a drunken knife-throwing act is just one of the many tangential themes that spice this musical.

Other performances worthy of mention are Claire Machin’s fabulously bolshy Mabel, whose comic facial expressions and dancing steal every scene she’s in, and Jennie Dale’s defiant May. The show may be called ‘The Pajama Game’ but there’s nothing sleepy about a production that harkens back to Eyre’s legendary revival of ‘Guys and Dolls’.

By: Rachel Halliburton


Event phone: 020 7379 5399

Average User Rating

2.3 / 5

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I really would not advise paying to see this musical, its probably one of the worst I have seen.

In essence, a poor story line, a random scene in a salsa bar where we are transported from the 1950s to some sort of cabaret club in which one of the male 1950s characters dressed in drag, the lyrics included the cast shouting out "doritos" and then taking turns snorting cocaine (not exactly family friendly and there was a 6 year old in front of me, hopefully unaware of what was happening with the cocaine scene).

Also, slightly misogynistic with scenes of domestic violence and the secretary ending up marrying the man who was prevously trying to kill her, calling her a "hussey", not exactly a good message to send out to younger members of the audience.

Overall our party left feeling disappointed.

This show is absolutely brutal.  If the plethora of white haired audience members was any indication, this is for folks who want to remember what 1930 was all about.  The script is non-existant, there is no character development, the songs are just junk-to-music.  I was shocked.  Please don't waste your money.

Got to admit I was a bit biased about this show having seen an excerpt at West End Live recently and was not that impressed.So it was with some trepidation that I took my seat last night.

Have to say my first impressions were not sustainable in the face of this enthusiastic, rollicking show.  It is, to be honest, a very old fashioned musical. Big song and dance numbers that don’t necessarily add to the narrative (for example the totally pointless but highly enjoyable opening to Act 2) but do engage the audience’s attention and keep the spirit of the play moving.  The story is pretty thin, with the ending coming as no real surprise to anyone whatsoever. 

Some marvelous songs including my two personal favourites “Hey There” and “Hernando’s Hideaway” are performed with true spectacle, particularly “Hey There” which is the first time I’ve ever seen a duet between a man and a Dictaphone. Speaking of men, Michael Xavier has a truly amazing voice, even managing to get above the over-exuberance of the brass section of the orchestra. He is also very easy on the eye and comes across as really likeable guy.  There is plenty of chemistry between him and the leading lady, Joanna Riding, and it is really possible to believe in the romance they play out in front of you, though their difference in height made for some interesting romantic scenes. 

Special mention has to be made of Gary Willmott, at 60 years old he should be sitting with his feet up re-living the glory days but he is treading the boards brilliantly here playing Vernon Hines with every ounce of his body.  Gary has a couple of great songs and completely steals the company picnic scene with a drunken knife throwing act that had the audience rolling in their seats.

Unlike previous reviewers I really lite the cabaret club scene - though was totally confused by the chap in drag - and felt it made really good use of the stage as well as the very impressive choreography that ran all the way through the show, 

OK, lets summarise.A good old fashioned musical that you could take everyone from your maiden aunt to your young nephew to see without worry.

Excellent choeography and amazing dancers. Found the chemistry between the two stars, with almost a decade and a half of age difference, not that great though.