Based in a postwar American pyjama factory, The Pajama Game focuses on relationships old and new, in the midst of a labour crisis.
Joanna Riding – Babe
Dan Burton – Sid (Understudy, usually played by Michael Xavier)
Gary Wilmot – Hines
Helen Ternent – Gladys (Understudy, usually played by Alexis Owen Hobbs)
Claire Machin – Mabel
Colin Stinton – Hasler/Pop
Overall, I would score the production 3/5. It was by no means groundbreaking theatre, but I had a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon. Perhaps more enjoyable than I’d anticipated, thanks mainly to the great cast and toe-tapping tunes you’ll definitely have heard before.
In contrast to many others, the forecast sunshine for West End Live weekend made me reconsider my attendance. It is often a great event, but standing in the blazing sunshine, in close proximity to too many people, listening to annoying presenters, waiting for musicals I’ve already seen to perform 5 minutes of their show, failed to appeal to me this year. Still wanting to make the most of my weekend, I opted to attend the Saturday matinee of The Pajama Game.
I make an effort to see all musicals that transfer to the West End from Chichester. They’re often of exceedingly good quality and tend to be revivals of shows I was way too young (as in, in negative years) to enjoy the first time around. I was, however, hesitant to attend the Pajama Game. I have bad memories of attending an amateur production during my university days and it falls into the bracket of a certain type of old school American musical that usually bores me senseless. The allure of great casting kept it in my ‘I should get round to seeing that’ box, a juicy ticket offer flying into my inbox was enough to seal the deal!
My problem with this type of old American musical is the amount of ‘fluff’ they contain. The plot threads out like a thinly wired washing line, with each song hanging off of it (in a pyjama like fashion!) exaggerating one point over and over without adding anything to the plot or your understanding of the characters. I’m pretty sure there was a time when huge ensemble dance numbers were the equivalent of mystifying stage effects, but sadly that no longer holds, at least for me.
Although The Pajama Game lives up to this categorization, I didn’t find it very tedious at all! The cast had a great energy throughout the many choreographed sequences, I found myself utterly caught up in Sid and Babe’s relationship and came out with a few of the upbeat tunes stuck in my head. It was funny too, particularly the scenes involving Claire Machin and Gary Wilmot’s characters. OK so they were pretty tangential to the plot, but that’s allowed if you make me physically shake with laughter.
Joanna Riding is a performer that I seem to love whatever she is in. She was flawless throughout, even when getting caught up in streamer tape during the curtain call (she wrangled it off and took her bow like a pro). Dan Burton was almost on a par with his portrayal of Sid who he played a lot more assertive than I’d imagine Michael Xavier (the regular lead) does.
Overall, this is a fun, quality, production that I’m definitely glad I ended up seeing.