The Pajama Game at the Shaftesbury Theatre
Richard Eyre’s production of The Pajama Game is two and half hours of flamboyance and kitsch. Although we’re told at the beginning that this is a story of capital and labour, it actually concerns a more prescribed musical topic: romance.
The employees of Sleep Tite factory want a seven and a half pence wage rise; new hunky and arrogant manager Sid is hired to sort out the dispute and hold back the union. Cue Babe Williams, union rep for the grievance committee. Babe outstrips Sid’s arrogance ten to one but that’s ok, she is female after all. These two fall in love but are at loggerheads over the pay fight, which finally culminates in Sid sacking Babe after she sabotages a machine.
There are some brilliant characters in the production that deserve a mention: Claire Machin is wonderful as Mabel, and her sense of timing accounts for much of the laughter in the first half. Alexis Owen-Hobbs as Gladys turns every scene she touches to gold, excelling both comically and musically. Unfortunately, Richard Adler and Jerry Ross’s script gave Joanna Riding little to play with as Babe, and she came across as abrasive, irritating and generally unlikeable.
By contrast, the show’s score is engaging and the energy of the pitband is a sight to behold. Occasionally the songs in the first half are slightly unpolished and not particularly memorable. After the interval, however, the performances come alive and we are treated to some fabulous shows, particularly from Gladys, who gives a seductive and brilliant rendition of Steam Heat.
Altogether the show is enjoyable, but it doesn’t break new ground for musicals and it certainly won’t make it into all-time favourites lists. The message about capital and labour is pretty arbitrary in the end and the musical is predictably superficial. But, if you’re looking for a night of frivolity and fun, then you will definitely find it at Shaftesbury Theatre with this show.
Photos: Tristram Kenton
The Pajama Game is on at Shaftesbury Theatre until 13th September 2014. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Listen to Michael Xavier and Joanna Riding perform Hey There from the show here: