Wednesday, 19 July 2006

The Pajama Game, Production Company, July 19, 2006

The Pajama Game 
Book by George Abbott & Richard Bissell, Music and Lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross
By The Production Company
State Theatre, Victorian Arts Centre, July 19 to 23, 2006
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on July 19, 2006

It is a novelty these days, to see a trade union win a pay battle but, in The Pajama Game, the seven and a half cents pay rise is a spectacular victory for the union reps and factory workers of Sleeptite Pajamas, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Terence O’Connell’s concert production is a lively romp with a cast and creative team of exceptional local talent.

Abbott and Bissell’s book is a cheeky, sexy tale, particularly for 1956. Based on Bissell’s novel, 7 1/2 Cents, it depicts not only the union battle but also an pyjama erotic factory landscape of burgeoning sexual affairs.

Ian Stenlake is magnetic and virile as the ambitious factory Superintendent, Sid Sorokin. His rich, powerful baritone pairs well with Pippa Grandison’s gutsy voice, ebullient personality and feisty character, Babe Williams, the Grievance Committee of the union.

Sid and Babe’s passionate love affair comes unstitched when Sid fires Babe during a stop work. Management and Union cannot be friends – or lovers.

Adler and Ross’s music and lyrics explain the enormous early success of the show. the songs are memorable and diverse.  

Steam Heat is delicious and features the inimitable Rachel Beck as Gladys, executing Bob Fosse inspired jazzy choreography. (Alana Scanlan) You With the Stars In Our Eyes is a lyrical love song, Once a Year Day a rousing chorus and the tangoesque Hernando’s Hideaway is sung in a downbeat beatnik club.

What made this musical different from others of the period was its setting in an obscure town, in an unromantic factory, peopled by factory workers and secretaries. It was known as the first left-wing musical. However, Sid and Prez (David Harris), the union president, would be sued for sexual harassment these days for their romantic antics.

There is a delightfully quirky support cast including the delectably funny Julie O’Reilly as the cheeky Mabel and Adam Murphy as time and motion foreman, Hines. Beck is one of our hottest musical properties and Harris plays the geeky, skirt-chasing unionist, Prez, with relish. Peter Hosking gives some gravitas to the union-bashing boss, Hasler.

Although this concert production does not have all the bells and whistles of a full production, Peter Casey’s very tight orchestra rouses cheers from the crowd, Phillip Lethlean’s lighting adds atmosphere, Richard Jeziorny’s design creates location and period.

The Pajama Game is an energetic, spunky and sexy night out.

By Kate Herbert

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