Saturday, 14 June 2014

'The Pajama Game' Shaftesbury Theatre *****

Once again, another West End transfer from the prestigious Chichester Festival Theatre has taken residence at the Shaftesbury Theatre. This time it's Richard Eyre's production of the classic 1950's musical 'The Pajama Game', and for me it's most definitely a delightful performance and makes one engage fully throughout. 'The Pajama Game' was written by George Abbot, and adapted from Richard Bissell's novel called '7-1/2 Cents',which creatively conveys a troublesome situation within a pyjama factory where strike action is a foot as the factory employer are demanding a seven-and-a-half-cents rise as other factories and increasing workers' pay. The musical clearly establishes the females rise in the workplace as Babe is the union’s chairperson and how love can exude through tremendous difficulties as Sid, the factories new superintendent has become infatuated by Babe’s personality and appearance. The show, first performed in Broadway, in 1954 has rarely been performed in the United Kingdom, and this rendition does not disappoint as the themes are incredibly poignant today. In addition, the performance is extremely enjoyable and one that appeals to a diverse range of audiences. The narrative is vastly clear and written with such panache and Richard Adler and Jerry Ross’ music and lyrics are compelling as they engross you to see whether the workers receive their pay rise and that the love story between Babe and Sid can progress, despite differences of opinions. I found such musical numbers as “Racing with the Clock”, “Hey There (You with the Stars in your Eyes”, “Sleep Tite” and “The Pajama Game” to be such sublime pieces of musicality and it seemed that the audience agreed with me too. It's a shame that musicals today are lacking originality, as expressed in previous reviews, to get audiences in, that existing material would aid ticket sales. Can people take some responsible creative risks please! The performances by the company of ‘The Pajama Game’ were spectacular. Joanna Riding is exceptional as the head of the workers union, Babe. I particularly liked the powerful strength behind the characters’ desire for improved pay. The handsome Michael Xavier is outstanding as the “new kid on the block”, Sid. I thought that he was ever so passionate in how he loves Babe with all of his heart. Gary Wilmot is superb at Hines, who provides the humorous elements of the performance to shine through. Alexis Owen-Hobbs is wondrous as Gladys, the boss’ secretary. Claire Machin is amazing as Mabel, Sid's secretary. Richard Eyre’s direction was phenomenal as a rarely produced musical can be performed with such perfection and a performance that entertains people throughout. Stephen Mears’ choreography is stunning, as each dance was delivered with tenacity and ease, especially in “Steam Heat”. Tim Hartley's design was brilliantly designed and consistently captures the factory atmosphere. ‘The Pajama Game’ is a performance worth seeing and an experience that I enjoyed immensely.

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