The Pajama Game review – 1999

originally published May 17, 1999 | 12:00AM PT

Variety – Pajama Game , online review

Far from emerging as another artificially spruced-up link in the retro-musical chain, Simon Callow’s arresting “The Pajama Game” is a fresh take on an enduring story . . . . The Birmingham Repertory Theatre production pulses with unbridled pizzaz and the 1954 script about a strike in a pajama factory is as relevant and snappy today as it was the day George Abbott and Richard Bissell wrote it. Callow’s vision of bridging eras by avoiding a period setting or a classical delivery of the songs puts a contemporary spin on the piece without sacrificing its heart. . . . The musical arrangements by John Harle and Gary Carpenter, with Ian Gardiner and Dick Walter are hip and snappy, with lush orchestrations from musical director Nick Barnard.

Fosse’s signature “Steam Heat,” always a sure-fire winner, pulls off its magic here . . . pop singer Alison Therese Limerick as Gladys (has) a voice that is gloriously textured . . . John Hegley, who plays timekeeper Vernon Hines, is a rubber-limbed comic well-known on the commercial fringes of London theatre and the Edinburgh Festival; performing his first big stage role here, he proves himself a natural, with a spontaneous understanding of the burlesque aspects of the role. If Callow had done nothing else, casting Hegley would be enough. But there’s also East Ender star Anita Dobson, whose “I’ll Never Be Jealous Again” in a duet with Hegley is a highlight of the show.

When “The Pajama Game” hits Toronto’s Princess of Wales Theatre in mid-June, “Crazy for You’s” Camilla Scott is stepping into the (lead) role.

The British cast, on the whole, does well with its accents but there is a particular American sensibility that gives musicals of this era a certain kind of energy. It’s interpreted here as vivacity and a kind of music hall panache . . . . on the whole Callow has done what he envisioned with “The Pajama Game” – demonstrating that old-fashioned book musicals have more than a history – with ideas and talent in the re-staging, they also have staying power.

Production

A Birmingham Repertory Theater presentation of a musical in two acts. Book by George Abbott and Richard Bissell, music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, based upon the novel “Seven and a Half Cents” by Richard Bissell.

Director, Simon Callow; musical director and conductor, Nick Barnard; musical arrangements, John Harle and Gary Carpenter with Ian Gardiner, Dick Walter and Christian Forshaw; Choreography, David Bintley; set, Frank Stella; lighting, Tim Mitchell; costumes, Christopher Woods; sound; Dick Sheppard and Ian Dearden.
Songs: “The Pajama Game,” “Racing With the Clock,” “A New Town Is a Blue Town ,” “I’m Not at All in Love,” “I’ll Never Be Jealous Again,” “Hey There,” “Her Is ,” “Sleep Tite,” “Once-a-Year Day,” “Small Talk,” “There Once Was Man,” “Steam Heat,” “If You Win You Lose,” “Think of the Time I Save,” “Hernando’s Hideaway,” “Seven-and-a-half Cents.”

Cast

Myron J. Hasler (Vice Chairman)                              – John Levitt
Gladys Hotchkiss (His Secretary)                              – Alison Therese Limerick
Sid Sorokin (Work Supervisor)                                  – Graham Bickley
Mabel Ellis (His Secretary)                                         – Anita Dobson
Vernon J. Hines (Time and Motion Study Man)    – John Hegley
Max Weiler (Ace Salesman)                                        – Steve Elias
Papa Halterbusch (salesman)                                     – Peter Edbrook
Betty-Sue                                                                         – Catie Entwistle
Brenda                                                                              – Deborah Spellman
Carrie                                                                                – Laura Hussey
Catherine (Babe) Williams                                           – Ulrika Jonsson/ Camilla Scott
Charlie                                                                              – Rufus Dean
Chip                                                                                  – Tod Talbot
Davey/ Edie (Steam Heat Boys)                                 – Phillipe Reynolds/Adam Pudney
Ella                                                                                   – Jenny-Ann Topham
Gino                                                                                  – Francesco D’Astici
Joe                                                                                     – Graeme Conway
Mae                                                                                   – Louise Davidson
Mary                                                                                 – Sophia Hurdley
Peggy-Ann                                                                       – Natasha Knight
Pete                                                                                   – Simon Smith
Poopsie                                                                             – Karen Clegg
Prez (President of the Union)                                      – Jonathan D. Ellis
Pop Williams/Uncle Max                                              – Peter Edbrook
Swings                                                                               – Saskia Lockey/Frank Thompson

Orchestra: Timothy Sutton, John Francis, Juliet Leighton-Jones, Amanda Chancellor, Nick Cooper, Simon Gardner, Paul Spong, Adrian Lane, Paul Gardham, John Whelan, John Franchi, Chris Caldwell, Dave Olney, Ian Laws, Eryl Roberts, Gary Kettel

 

Posted on: 4th May 2015