A lot of musicals at the moment are trying too hard to be different and quirky – full of nudity and the shock factor. These have all failed. So it’s brilliant to see The Pajama Game – a 50 year old musical – make a comeback. Yet unlike others that have tried to return and failed, we can still associate with this musical.
Sid (Michael Xavier) and Babe (Joanna Riding) work in the Sleep Tite pyjama factory and despite their differences (he’s a superintendent; she’s part of the Grievance Committee), they fall in love. But when the union threatens strike action over a 7 1/2 cent pay rise, their relationship is threatened…
As always Michael Xavier has fabulous chemistry with his onstage romantic interest and he and Joanna Riding bounce off each other with wit and charm. The duets are seamless and their voices and bodies complement each other perfectly.
The best duet however is I’ll Never Be Jealous Again between Mabel (Claire Machin) and Hines (Peter Polycarpou). The song itself is amusing, but the two actors perform it with humour and class.
In fact, all of the songs are catchy and memorable (with great lyrics “everyone’s entitled to be wild, be a child, be a goof, raise the roof”), and it was the slower number Hey There that was stuck in my head during the interval, although I went home singing Seven-and-a-Half-Cents. The ensemble numbers are well-choreographed and the audience all absentmindedly tap their feet to I’m Not At All In Love and Once A Year Day… and actually most of the others too!
The girls’ dresses are beautiful (as is Michael Xavier) and the scenery (particularly the factory floor) is impressive… but it is Richard Eyre’s direction and the cast’s enthusiasm, plus the standard of performance that really stands out.
This is a production that isn’t taking itself too seriously. Yes the story has an underlying serious theme, but the songs and script are relaxed and tongue-in-cheek and the cast are clearly really enjoying themselves.
But then so are the audience and it just goes to show that a decent musical that relates to a modern audience can still be enjoyed 50 years on. Don’t stay in your pyjamas – get dressed and go for a superb night out! And somebody please tell me how Polycarpou threw those knives so well!
Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes
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