Review Roundup: West End's THE PAJAMA GAME
Following a critically acclaimed, sold out run, Chichester Festival Theatre's sparkling production of the Broadway smash hit musical, The Pajama Game, directed by Richard Eyre, just opened in the West End, playing until 13 September 2014. A buoyantly blissful blend of romance and comedy starring Joanna Riding reprising her feisty heroine, and Michael Xavier, the show features golden hits such as Hey There (You With The Stars In Your Eyes), Hernando's Hideaway and Steam Heat.
In 1950s America, love is in the air at the Sleep-Tite Pajama Factory as handsome new Superintendent Sid Sorokin (Michael Xavier) falls head-over-heels for firebrand Union rep Babe Williams (Joanna Riding). Sparks fly when the employees are refused a seven-and-a-half cents raise, leaving Sid and Babe deliciously at odds as the temperature rises. . . Will love, eventually, conquer all?
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Michael BIllington, The Guardian: Michael Xavier as Sid is new to the production and his abrasive charm is well matched by Joanna Riding's mix of gritty determination and good nature as the passionate Babe. But there are no minor roles in an Eyre musical and what is striking is the strength of the surrounding cast. Peter Polycarpou as an insanely jealous shopfloor Othello, Alexis Owen-Hobbs as his flighty inamorata, Colin Stinton as the Scrooge-like factory owner and Claire Machin as a fantasising secretary all perform with a dynamism that sends you out into the street uplifted.
Charles Spencer, Telegraph: In the cold light of day I suppose one would have to conclude that The Pajama Game (1954) doesn't quite make it into the top 10 of all-time great musicals of the kind obsessively compiled by sad anoraks such as myself. But watching Richard Eyre's joyful production of this musical comedy, with music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross and a punchy book by the Broadway legend George Abbott and Richard Bissell, it often feels like one of the most zingingly entertaining tune-and-toe shows you have ever seen. If it doesn't quite match Eyre's legendary production of Guys and Dolls, there are moments when it comes thrillingly close.
Michael Coveney, Whatsonstage: Like surprisingly lots of musicals, the subject matter of The Pajama Game - they say pajamas, we write pyjamas - is distinctly unpromising. But this tale of love across the picket line as the workers threaten industrial action over a pay rise is a Broadway classic, and Richard Eyre's Chichester Festival Theatre production makes a joyous leap from the Minerva studio (where it opened last summer) to the vast open spaces of the unforgiving Shaftesbury.
Dominic Maxwell, The TImes: After earning a rapturous response in Chichester last summer, Richard Eyre's revival of this 1954 musical comedy is here to spread its good vibrations in the West End. Don't be taken in at the start when a character tells us that we're watching "a very serious drama" about "capital and labour": this tale of love blooming between a manager and a shop steward at an American pyjama factory is Broadway fluff.
Sarah Hemming, Financial Times: The elastic begins to sag slightly in the second half, with a rather meandering sequence leading to Sid finally saving the day. But it's so joyously performed that it is hard to mind. There's fine, detailed work from the cast: Peter Polycarpou and Claire Machin deliver a delightfully daft duet about jealousy, while Alexis Owen-Hobbs sizzles as the sultry secretary. And in the Darcy and Elizabeth-style love affair, Michael Xavier brings a lovely wry style to his character's mix of arrogance and anxiety (duetting with himself on the office Dictaphone) and Joanna Riding combines terrier-like determination with vulnerability. A stylish pyjama case, this one.