Following the success of Sweeney Todd, Singin In The Rain, Another Country and Barnum, The Pajama Game is but another Chichester Festival Theatre production that enjoys the opportunity of a transfer.
The musical, set in 1950's America begins where a strike is imminent at the Sleep-Tite Pajama Factory. The workers churn out pajamas at a backbreaking pace and demands for a seven-and-a-half cent raise are going unheeded. In the midst of this ordeal, love blossoms between Babe, the grievance committee head, and Sid, the new factory superintendent.
For this musical, what's particularly fascinating is the age of the piece in comparison to it's relevance. Of course, love stories are timeless but at the centre of it all is a workforce struggle, seven and a half cents doesn't buy a hell of a lot, it echoes similar situations in once-thriving businesses now. Just as Billy Elliot and The Full Monty tackle similar situations there's comedy right at the heart. Principally, it is Gary Wilmot in the role of Vernon Hines who is ultimately there for the laughs, with comedy knife throwing and a Red Indian outfit! With a great rendition of Think Of The Time I'll Save, Wilmot remains incredibly charming throughout.
It is Michael Xavier who impresses vocally as Sid Sorokin, at one point there's a clever duet with his own voice on dictaphone. Xavier is perfectly partnered Lauren Varnham, who covered the role of Babe for the first time at this performance. Beautiful in every sense of the word, she is in fantastically fine voice, has boundless energy and is perfectly cast, deserving of a lead role. It is a terrible shame that more won't be get the chance to see her in what is definitely her most rounded, mature and captivating role of her career so far. Eugene McCoy is worthy of mention in the role of Union President.
Steam Heat is perhaps one of two choreographic highlights, an incredibly entertaining dance break from the main action packed with daring lifts and exciting tap. The other, Hernando's Hideaway is a perfect example of Stephen Mear's breathtaking choreography. The finale is an uplifting pajama-clad celebration that leaves you singing in the street long afterwards and a desire to get home and slip into some luxury loungewear!
Richard Eyre's revival of The Pajama Game is an incredibly joyous affair. It's theatre at it's very core, there's nothing overly complicated it's just 2 hours and 40 minutes of serious fun. As far as revivals go, Pajama's is at the top of it's game!
See The Pajama Game at the Shaftesbury Theatre until Saturday 13 September. Book tickets online here. "Hurry up, can't waste time!" as they sing...
You can't do The Pajama Game without pajamas, and who better to turn to than Derek Rose - a company established in 1926, a brand unrivalled in luxury using the finest silks and cottons with unprecedented passion and drive. Derek Rose supplied the pyjamas used in the 1954 production at the London Palladium and have once again provided them for the latest revival of the musical. For three lead roles, The Pajama Game team wanted something a little more unique and custom designs were specially created in consultation with the show’s costume designers and all made in Cheshire, UK. Derek Rose created 7 pairs of men’s and 7 pairs of ladies’ pyjama designs which are from fabrics picked out from their archives and reissued just for the production. To view a full range of products, visit the website here. Below is a particular favourite from the collection, the Duke 1 Navy Cashmere Dressing Gown, fully lined in the finest Italian silks... I wouldn't object if anyone wishes to buy me this!
Find out about the job of the wardrobe department, backstage at the Shaftesbury Theatre with Paula McIntosh