BWW Reviews: THE PAJAMA GAME at Seattle Musical Theatre
Seattle Musical Theatre is starting off their new season of musicals through the decades with the 50's tuner, "The Pajama Game" by George Abbott, Richard Bissell, Richard Adler and Jerry Ross and direction from local theater veteran David Edward Hughes. With an evening full of fun and frothy numbers the watchword for the evening could really only be described as "hot" but in both good and bad ways.
We follow the workers at the Sleep-Tite Pajama Factory as they struggle to make ends meet. And with the help of the union they hope to make it a little easier with a seven and a half cent raise. But their boss keeps turning them down so along with union leader Babe (Kirsten Delohr Helland) they organize a strike to force management to cave in. And up against them is the new supervisor Sid (Derek Hanson who just wants to keep the factory running. Problem is that Babe and Sid, through all their protestations, find they have more in common than just pajamas and have fallen for each other. But how will these star crossed lovers keep the factory going, get the money they need and still end up happily ever after? Well, that's the story. And it's the typical story from those old fashioned musicals. Unlikely lovers protesting their interest until they ultimately give in, overcoming all obstacles. And all set to classics such as "I'm Not At All In Love", "Hey There" and "Hernando's Hideaway". Hence our first instance of "hot" for the show. The music is steamy, sexy and raucous (especially for the era) and just plain fun.
Which brings me to my second instance of "hot" and that was the choreography from Harry Turpin. With lively and well thought out numbers, the action never wanes as Turpin keeps it all cool. He even managed to throw in a little of the original Fosse action in the "Steam Heat" number. And his "Hernando's Hideaway" choreography complete with well timed pin spots really brought up the heat.
And then there's the cast filled with local sensations. deLohr Helland's Babe was strong, loveable and with a great voice and her counterpart of Hanson, while tending toward a bit of the over stylized, matched her amazing pipes with some killer ones of his own. Put them up there with the hilarious and multi-talented Frank Kohel as the factory's time study expert Hines and his flirtatious bombshell of a girlfriend Gladys, steamily played by Lindsey Larson (and with one of the best drunk scenes around) and you only add to the star power. And let's not forget Loretta Deranleau Howard as the wise cracking secretary Mabel who not only stopped the show with Kohel and their "I'll Never Be Jealous Again" number but also managed brilliant comedic throw aways which managed to take center stage even when she was in the background. This stunning cast just kept adding to the heat.
This brings me to some of the bad heat I mentioned. First, the over stylized characterizations of the show may have been intentional but if so, they needed to be more consistent across the board. Some folks had it while still remaining grounded in realism, some didn't and some ran with it a little too "hot". And speaking of heat, we may have a number called "Steam Heat" in the show but that doesn't mean we need the realism of getting heat stroke in the audience. With this gorgeous summer we've been having, the theater might want to invest in some air conditioning or at least some fans as I heard many people comment that they'd probably have enjoyed the show more if they weren't so uncomfortable in the theater.
But temperature problems aside, the production is still a fun one with a great cast, gorgeous set and costumes and some killer dance numbers. And I'm sure as the run goes along; many of these inconsistencies will iron themselves out and ensure you're in for a ... well ... HOT time!
"The Pajama Game" performs at Seattle Musical Theatre through October 2nd. For tickets or information contact the Seattle Musical Theatre box office at 206-363-2809 or visit them online at www.seattlemusicaltheatre.org.
Photo credit: Stewart Hopkins