The Pajama Game – Review

Steaming! Alexis Owen Hobbs in The Pajama Game. Photo by Tristram Kenton.
Steaming! Alexis Owen Hobbs in The Pajama Game. Photo by Tristram Kenton.

The steam heat on the factory floor is sizzling in the vintage blue collar Broadway musical The Pajama Game which has just opened in the West End.

Chichester Festival Theatre’s big budget show has been allowed to stretch its legs after transferring from the venue’s intimate Minerva stage to the Shaftesbury Theatre .

Directed with love and affection by Richard Eyre this old girl has been given a shot of Botox in a fun-filled, exuberant revival.

Yes, at 60-years-old, it’s a quaintly old-fashioned museum piece, but it’s great entertainment if classic musicals are for you.

Most of the original cast have come with the show but the leading man, factory superintendent Sid Sorokin is now played by the lofty stage-star Michael Xavier who towers over his diminutive love interest, union rep Babe Williams (Joanna Riding).

Joanna Riding and Michael Xavier in The Pajama Game-2-05-14-Shaftesbury Theatre-4297_Photo Tristram Kenton

Kisses and warm embraces have Riding stretching right up on tiptoes but the mismatched pair make a lovely couple – when they’re not at war.

The musical is set in the Sleep Tite Pajama Factory where new-boy Sorokin wants to impress the boss and boost productivity.

Unfortunately the workers are in a militant mood and are demanding a seven-and-a-half-cents pay rise from their resistant boss.

The feisty Babe does her best to resist the lure of the new member of the management but, this being a classic rom-com that originally starred Doris Day, well, you know how it goes.

There are some tremendous set pieces in the show, particularly the ensemble’s Once-A-Year Day routine and the red hot Steam Heat (take a bow the gorgeous, high-kicking Alexis Owen-Hobbs, Richard Jones and Dan Burton).

Peter Polycarpou has come to London to open the show as “time and study” man Vernon Hines (before returning to Chichester for its summer musical Guys And Dolls) and he is a knockout.

His song-and-dance duet with the middle-aged Mabel (Claire Machin) is standout. Hines scurries around the factory barking at the workers like the Mad Hatter. “Seconds are ticking! Can’t waste time!” he bawls.

Gary Wilmot takes over from June 2 and he has big pyjamas to fill. Polycarpou’s performance is sensational.

The musical numbers are slick and polished but some of the staging doesn’t succeed as well as on the Minerva’s thrust stage.

Having the factory workers in straight rows meant most of the audience only saw the front line. An exploding sewing machine was missed by most in the stalls as it was hidden behind another table.

Quibbles aside The Pajama Game is great fun, if a little dated.

Leave a Reply