BWW Reviews: THE PAJAMA GAME, Shaftesbury Theatre, May 13 2014
n Coronation Street, the machinists at Carla's knicker factory steal the petty cash and gossip over cream cakes. Rewind to 1954 and working conditions are very different. The unionised workers at Mr Hasler's pajama factory are overworked and underpaid so they threaten production by 'going slow' and with substandard button threading.
Their dispute is over a 7 ½ cent raise and two lovers are divided when they find themselves on different sides of the picket line; Babe (played by Joanna Riding) is a grievance chief, and new boy Sid (Michael Xavier), the arrogant factory superintendent, ruthlessly pursues our feisty heroine whilst simultaneously motivating and punishing the workforce.
The leads are strong both vocally and physically with some romantic dance numbers. Equally entertaining are Peter Polycarpou's Hines and his on-stage fiancée Alexis Owen-Hobbs in the role of Gladys (which launched the career of Shirley MacLaine!).
There are several standout numbers in director Richard Eyre's show which is at its best when the company are all performing together. Particularly good are 'Once-a-Year-Day' (did this inspire Elbow's hit 'One Day Like This'?) and 'I'll Never be Jealous Again' in which secretary Mabel (Clare Machin) does a wonderful comedic double act with Hines.
The Second Act includes the irritatingly catchy 'Hernando's Hideaway' and lets Gladys shine in the sexy dance number in 'Steam Heat'. Stephen Mear's choreography is exuberant and is very carefully matched to the music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross.
This revival of The Pajama Game comes at culturally a relevant time. The country is coming out of recession and interestingly, this production raised £200,000 (14% of its capital costs) through crowd-funding website Seedrs. The show's spirit of teamwork has percolated to grassroots funding and investors can even see a share of the profits once the show has recouped capital and running costs.
The most recent production to stage at Shaftesbury Theatre was From Here to Eternity; fingers crossed The Pajama Game stays in bed a lot longer.
Until 13 September. Box office: 020 7379 5399