Previewed 1 May 2014, Opened 13 May 2014, Closed 13 September 2014 at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London
A major revival of the classic musical The Pajama Game in London starring Joanna Riding and Michael Xavier and directed by Richard Eyre - transferring from the Chichester Festival Theatre.
In 1950s America, love is in the air at the Sleep-Tite Pajama Factory and sparks fly when the employees are refused a seven-and-a-half cents raise. Union rep Babe Williams and the new Superintendent Sid Sorokin sit on different sides of the bargaining table, but their blossoming romance may be even harder to negotiate.
The cast for The Pajama Game in London features Joanna Riding as 'Babe Williams', Peter Polycarpou as 'Vernon Hines' (up to 31 May 2014 only) and Colin Stinton as 'Hasler' who are all reprising their roles from the Chichester Festival Theatre production which run from April to June 2013. Joining them in the West End will be Michael Xavier as 'Sid Sorokin'. Directed by Richard Eyre with choreography by Stephen Mear, designs by Tim Hatley lighting by Howard Harrison and sound by Paul Groothius. Musical with words and music by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross with book by George Abbott and Richard Bissell, based on the novel '7-and-a-half Cents' by Richard Bissell. Michael Xavier's West End theatre credits include the musical comedy Pageant (Vaudeville Theatre 2000).
When this production opened in London Michael Billington in the Guardian said "it's a big leap from the Minerva in Chichester to the Shaftesbury Theatre, but Richard Eyre's joyous production of this 1954 musical effortlessly expands to fill the space. ... What really counts in this revival is the brilliance of Stephen Mear's choreography in matching the mood of the songs by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross." Neil Norman in the Daily Express described how "Richard Eyre's sizzling production of this 1950s musical has lost little in its well-merited transfer to the West End from Chichester's Minerva Theatre... this is a rip-roaring delight from beginning to end." Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times thought that "a show about an industrial dispute simply should not be this much fun... but this is 1950s musicals-land, and any serious points come packaged in an irresistible mix of waspish comedy, droll songs and exuberant dance - all fabulously delivered in Richard Eyre's affectionate production." Charles Spencer in the Daily Telegraph commented that "watching Richard Eyre's joyful production of this musical comedy... it often feels like one of the most zingingly entertaining tune-and-toe shows you have ever seen... Eyre's effervescent production marvellously captures the show's constantly bubbling wit with the help of Stephen Mear's often dazzlingly inventive choreography." Patrick Marmion in the Daily Mail highlighted that "what saves Richard Eyre's breezy production, swinging into the West End from Chichester, is the terrific score. George Abbott's book is, alas, a piece of hokum, in which a careerist shop steward falls for a radical seamstress." Dominic Maxwell in the Times explained that "this tale of love blooming between a manager and a shop steward at a pyjama factory is Broadway fluff. Richard Eyre's colourful production ensures that it's delightful fluff... It's not quite a Great American Musical, but it's certainly great fun." Henry Hitchings in the London Evening Standard wrote that "Richard Eyre's cast proves wonderfully buoyant. The engaging Michael Xavier brings a velvety ardour to Sid, while Joanna Riding's Babe has a mix of brisk efficiency and fiery conviction... But it's the swooping, swirling choreography by Stephen Mear that is the highlight of a production that combines fluent stylishness with an easy, frisky sense of fun."
When this same production opened at Chichester's Minerva Theatre in 2013 Paul Taylor in the Independent praised "Richard Eyre's irrepressibly zestful revival," and "Stephen Mear's dynamic choreography" while Neil Norman in the Daily Express hailed it as being a "rip-roaring production," going to say that "Richard Eyre's production explodes on to the stage from the opening number... the ensemble is happily haphazard in size, shape and age but not ability. There isn't a weak link anywhere. Smart, sexy and funny with a streak of sinew, this is a sizzling revival of a musical that was well worth defrosting." Charles Spencer in the Daily Telegraph described it as being a "cracking production... with deft designs by Tim Hatley... throughout, Stephen Mear's choreography bursts with energy and invention." Likewise Michael Billington in the Guardian highlighted that "Stephen Mear proves yet again he is our most inventive showbiz choreographer" and Libby Purves in the Times wrote that "Stephen Mear's marvellously varied choreography is, well, indescribable. Oompalumptious, balletriffic, tappamazing - the very essence and apogee of bodily joy." Fiona Mountford in the London Evening Standard said that the show "is one of the classics of the American canon. Yet it remains under-known over here. After this delicious production, I very much doubt that will still be the case... It's a show sizzling with hit songs, the positive energy from which supercharges proceedings right from the opening moments."
"It is a joy to welcome Richard Eyre's meticulous production of this classic Broadway musical comedy... Richard Eyre invests each member of the company with a strong individual identity. Joanna Riding and Michael Xavier are deeply affecting and there is splendid support from Colin Stinton and Alexis Owen-Hobbs... Stephen Mear's ebullient and emotionally truthful choreography keeps the show constantly on its toes and Gareth Valentine's orchestrations make it zing." The Express on Sunday
"This is without question an assured and stylish production. Michael Xavier plays a member of the management at the Sleep Tite Pajama Factory who falls in love with a union stalwart named Babe (Joanna Riding). A row over a 7.5 cent pay rise soon ensures that the lovers are star-cross'd... There is not, to be honest, much of a chemistry between Xavier and Riding - it feels in their big, smouldering love scenes as if they have, at best, a nodding acquaintance with each other - but the show sounds and looks so good it doesn't seem to matter all that much. The members of the supporting cast are on great form, too." The Sunday Telegraph
"A tiptop production of a so-so musical about pay checks v passion... Hard-bitten Babe is a union organiser in the pyjama factory, cocksure Sid is management - hold on to your reinforced buttons when a wage dispute tests their love. Richard Eyre's small-scale production gives it all the realism it can bear, and the frisky choreographer Stephen Mear sets it wriggling. Adler and Ross wrote 'meh' songs, but terrific dance numbers. A glorious ensemble throws itself into the kooky galumph." The Sunday Times
"Some of the song-and-dance routines are superfluous while character developments are bemusingly compacted. Still, Jean-Luc Godard called this 'the first left-wing operetta' and it is rather extraordinary. Babe turns militant in a labour dispute and separates from Sid until he switches sides. He discovers that the boss has lined his pockets while declaring pay rises impossible. Politics aside, Eyre's production is a blast in the intimate Minerva studio. Undeterred by its main house currently being a building site, Chichester Festival has produced another musical hit... Stephen Mear's choreography is exuberant and droll. Richard Adler and Jerry Ross's songs pastiche everything from barbershop to yodelling." The Independent on Sunday
The Pajama Game in London at the Shaftesbury Theatre previewed from 1 May 2014, opened on 13 May 2014 and closed on 13 September 2014.
The Pajama Game with Leslie Ash 1999
Previewed 21 September 1999, Opened 4 October 1999, Closed 18 December 1999 at the Victoria Palace Theatre in London
The musical that puts the passion back into fashion!
This Birmingham Rep production features an 'all-star' cast: Leslie Ash as 'Catherine 'Babe' Williams', Graham Bickley as 'Sid Sorokin', John Hegley as 'Vernon J Hines', Anita Dobson as 'Mabel Ellis' and Alison Limerick as 'Gladys Hotchkiss' with Nick Hamilton as 'Pop Williams/Uncle Max', Jonathan D Ellis as 'Perez' and John Levitt as 'Myron J Hasler' along with Simon Archer, Karen Clegg, John Harrison Combe, Heather Craig, Francesco D'Astici, Louise Davidson, Rufus Dean, Steve Elias, Catie Marie Entwhistle, Laura Hussey, Natasha Knight, Saskia Lockey, Paul Micha, Lucy Potter, Adam Pudney, Phillipe Reynolds, Deborah Spellman, Todd Talbot, Frank Thompson and Jenny-Ann Topham. Directed by Simon Callow with choreography by David Bintley and sets by Frank Stella.
"Leslie Ash plays Babe - head of the Union Grievance Committee at the Sleep-Tite pajama factory - who falls in love across the picket line with a management hunk. I admire her guts and she's a funny straight actress, but Ms Ash is frankly too old and wrong for this show. But instead of doing it as a period piece and giving this well-crafted workplace comedy a chance, the play comes over as a cartoon parody, the cast stuffed with amiable non-musical bods such as John Hegley. Anite Dobson lets rip as Mabel, the factory life-and-soul, and one or two subplots have some comic mileage. There are one or two moments of poetry, but this over-groovy production with its jazzed up score and furiously funky visuals in the end smacks of bad faith. It looks striking but, as thay say, you can't hum the sets." The Daily Express
"Simon Callow's new production is spot-on - most of the time - and the American artist Frank Stella has given it extraordinary sets: the black-and-white sketch world of the factory floor is contrasted with the bright colours of the clothes being manufactured, and of the world outside... John Hegley, despite an American accent that hardly gets out of Liverpool dock, is lugubrious and bizarre as Vernon, the Time and Motion Study Man; and Anita Dobson, with her irrepressible barracuda smile, is a constant source of fatuous glee as Mabel, the Work Supervisor's Secretary. And - with a hefty dose of caricature - the show evokes the 1950s. Babe, the Head of the Grievance Committee, has a Marilyn Monroe coiffure; Gladys, the Vice-Chairman's Secretary, dresses up like Cyd Charisse in The Bandwagon. David Bintley, choreographing, starts out with the jive and tango, and then builds on them in modern terms with a great deal of bubbling high spirits. All the ensemble figures emerge as vivid individuals. Jonathan D. Ellis, a comic beanpole, makes Prez (the President of the Union) a tower of absurd fun, with his slicked hair and his strong-surface weak-substance behaviour to women. The problem is the "lurve" interest at the centre. As Babe, Leslie Ash may well take off to give the show the heart it needs at later performances. Her American accent is good, her figure is terrific, her singing (despite a small voice) is mainly true. But her eyes are seldom those of a theatre animal; her manner is not youthful; and her energy is contained. Amid all these cartoon crazies, she seems - at present - demure and unspontaneous. Still, it is easy to like her. Graham Bickley - as Sid Sorokin, the Work Supervisor - is technically attractive, and, in practice, wholly charmless; he generates no kind of sex or fun. You can tell that "Hey There" was once a hit; but, with him, it casts no spell. Fortunately, the rest of the show flourishes. And if you stay for the curtain calls, the brass-dominated band - uncredited in the programme - send you out of the theatre with great panache." The Financial Times
"The musical comedy The Pajama Game is 45 years old and arrives at the Victoria Palace freshly washed in bright designs by the American abstract painter Frank Stella, its orchestration nattily embroidered with plenty of jazzy sax and even a bit of rock 'n' roll, plus a few subtle alterations here and there. And whaddaya know? It's still every inch the threadbare, shapeless, baggy garment run up on the old Singer in the Fifties... Simon Callow's sparkless, charmless show is a dreary disappointment, miscast and underpowered... Callow's torpid treatment never suggests that this is more than a minor song and dance show with a couple of terrific numbers, best of all Hey There. Even this gets sold short by Graham Bickley's characterless Sid. He and Leslie Ash as Babe (under-whelming in the voice and dance departments) are rather less sexy than a pair of mismatched winceyette pyjamas. The stand-up poet John Hegley looks lost as the factory's time-and-motion man (poor timing, lousy motion) and Anita Dobson overcompensates for the lifelessness of the rest of the cast with lots of vampy growling. Grrrrrrrrim." The Mail on Sunday
The Pajama Game in London at the Victoria Palace Theatre previewed from 21 September 1999, opened on 4 October 1999 and closed on 18 December 1999