Festival 2013

Hadley Fraser Joanna Riding

The Pajama Game

The Pajama Game

The Pajama Game

Minerva Theatre

22 Apr - 8 Jun 2013

Overview

Words and music by
RICHARD ADLER and JERRY ROSS
Book by
GEORGE ABBOTT and RICHARD BISSELL
Based on Bissell's novel 7½ Cents

'YET AGAIN, CHICHESTER PROVES IT IS AT THE FOREFRONT OF MUSICAL REVIVALS'
5 Star Rating The Guardian

'IT'S DELICIOUS - SIZZLING WITH HIT SONGS
AND POSITIVE ENERGY'
4 Star Rating Evening Standard

Love is in the air at the Sleep-Tite Pajama Factory as handsome new Superintendent Sid Sorokin falls head-over-heels for firebrand Union rep Babe Williams. But when the employees are refused a seven-and-a-half cents an hour raise, sparks fly and the couple find themselves deliciously at odds. Will love, eventually, conquer all?

A buoyantly blissful confection of romance and comedy, The Pajama Game’s hit-drenched, golden age score includes Hey There (You With The Stars In Your Eyes), Hernando’s Hideaway and Steam Heat.

Hadley Fraser
plays Sid. His West End theatre includes Les Misérables, The Far Pavilions and The Fantasticks. Broadway theatre includes The Pirate Queen. Films include The Phantom of the Opera 25th Anniversary and Les Misérables.
Read our Q&A with Hadley Fraser

Joanna Riding
plays Babe. Her credits include My Fair Lady and Carousel (Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical), The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Billy Elliot, An Ideal Husband, Blithe Spirit, The Witches of Eastwick, Guys and Dolls and Stella (for Sky).

Richard Eyre directed The Last Cigarette for Chichester. He was Artistic Director of the National Theatre (1987-97) where his numerous productions included Guys and Dolls as well as new plays by David Hare and Tom Stoppard. He has recently directed Betty Blue Eyes and Quartermaine’s Terms. His films include Iris, Notes on a Scandal and Henry IV Parts I and II.   
Listen to our pre-show talk with Richard Eyre and read an interview with him.

Stephen Mear has choreographed Kiss Me, Kate (also at The Old Vic), The Music Man, Funny Girl and She Loves Me (which he also directed) for Chichester. His West End work includes Mary Poppins, Hello, Dolly! and Crazy For You.

Don't miss The Pajama Game at London's Shaftesbury Theatre, 1 May - 13 September 2014. Visit thepajamagamethemusical.com for more information.

Presented by arrangement with Josef Weinberger Limited on behalf of MusicTheatre International of New York.

Supported by The Pajama Game Commissioning Circle.

The Pajama Game is sponsored by

Festival 2013

Oldham Seals Group

Oldham Seals Group

Reynolds Fine Furniture

Reynolds Fine Furniture


Reviews

5 Star Rating
The Guardian

With the Festival theatre closed for renovation and Chichester resembling a building site, it seems appropriate to kick off the season in the Minerva with a piece about industrial relations. It sounds earnest, but this 1954 show, with words and music by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, takes you back to the heyday of the American book-musical and gets a production from Richard Eyre that, for sheer finesse, evokes memories of his National Theatre Guys and Dolls.

The story revolves around a conflict between love and politics. Sid Sorokin, the abrasive superintendent in a pyjama factory, is smitten by Babe Williams, the tough head of the shopfloor Grievance Committee. The workers are agitating for a pay rise, which inevitably leads to a collision. Since this is a musical, and we're in the optimistic Eisenhower 1950s, all is happily resolved and the show coasts along on a glorious tide of melody. Songs such as Hey There and Hernando's Hideaway became standards, but I had forgotten the buoyant wit of I'll Never Be Jealous Again, in which a time-and-motion man forswears his sexual possessiveness.

It is admittedly hard to credit that Gladys, the boss's secretary, would entertain a union meeting with an erotic dance such as Steam Heat. But the great virtue of Eyre's production and Tim Hatley's design, with its array of sewing machines, is that they never let us forget that the musical takes place against a background of work. Joanna Riding and Hadley Fraser as the leads also display the edginess of a couple whose romantic aspirations are shadowed by pay-deals and go-slows. Alexis Owen-Hobbs as the high-stepping Gladys, Peter Polycarpou as the obsessive clock-watcher and Colin Stinton as the pugnacious boss lend superb support, while Stephen Mear proves yet again he is our most inventive showbiz choreographer. A simple thing like a slight shove, which triggers shopfloor ructions, is turned into a dance motif for Sid and Babe – and the fancy footwork displayed by the ensemble must have impressed even Gary Lineker, who happened to be in the house. Yet again, Chichester proves it is at the forefront of musical revivals.
- Michael Billington

 

4 Star Rating
The Times

There is something unavoidably funny about pyjamas, the floppiness, the likelihood that the occupant is ruffled and short of daytime dignity. When a harassed executive in the Sleep-Tite factory shouts: “Pyjamas are at a crossroads!” you need a heart of stone not to giggle.

With the 1950s lyrics and music of Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, and George Abbott’s good-hearted rom-com plot, it is hard to see why this show is not being performed all the time.

Richard Eyre, the director, says that he has been in love with the show’s numbers since he was 12 and had not even seen it. So great luck for me to come fresh to his glorious revival of the original 1954 Broadway version. I spent all evening with a happy, goofy grin that has not worn off yet. It will be a monstrous injustice to national morale if The Pajama Game doesn’t tour forever.

I suppose it takes the can-do, optimistic, populist America of the Fifties, and the intrinsic hilarity of bedwear, to make such a delight out of a battle between a garment-workers’ union and a miserly boss cooking the books and refusing them a pay rise of 7½ per cent. Then frame within it a classic tale of pyjama-factory lovers divided by loyalty and affiliation – a sort of Romeo and flannelette.

The ambitious new Superintendent Sid Sorokin is Hadley Fraser, deploying a huge, brash voice fit to bust his braces, and startling edges of falsetto. A plaintive duet with his dictaphone confesses his passion for the chairwoman of the Grievance Committee, Babe Williams. Joanna Riding is a joy in this role – not a conventionally pretty babe (that is left to Alexis Owen-Hobbs as the ineffably funny bimbo Gladys), but rather a striding, stroppy new woman in jeans whose sudden melt into joyful, teasing, puppyish love is all the more irresistible.

Around them, Eyre keeps faith with the show’s intention by assembling a cast whom, through all vigorous – and some brilliant – dancers , are of wonderfully disparate shapes and sizes – from gawky Eugene McCoy wooing Jenna Boyd, to Peter Polycarpou, obsessive in sock-suspenders as the Time and Motion Man. They are all fabulous, and pull off the trick of dancing both like professionals and, when necessary, like stomping, unco-ordinated factory hands on a spree (Once-a-Year Day) is epic.

Stephen Mear’s marvellously varied choreography is, well, undescribable.

Oompalumptious, balletriffic, tappamazing – the very essence and apogee of bodily joy.
- Libby Purves

4 Star Rating
The Telegraph

This cracking production at Chichester's Minerva Theatre showed the Pajama Game to be a very good musical, says Charles Spencer.

The Chichester Festival Theatre is currently one big building site as it undergoes a £22 million redevelopment, but there will still be plenty of shows on offer this summer.

The smaller Minerva auditorium will house a full season of enticing-looking productions, while a state-of-the-art, 1,400-seat tented theatre will rise in Chichester’s Oaklands Park in June. It will house new productions of the circus musical Barnum – a smart choice in the circumstances – and Tim Firth’s dark comedy about an outward-bound management course, Neville’s Island.

But the season gets under way with Richard Eyre’s cracking production of The Pajama Game (1954) a show with a book by Broadway legend George Abbott and music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, who went on to write Damn Yankees. The production also gave Bob Fosse his first major outing as a choreographer.

In Eyre’s fizzing production the show strikes me as a very good musical rather than a truly great one, though that is a vast improvement on the last time I saw it in a dire production by Simon Callow at the Victoria Palace with tiresome designs by the American painter Frank Stella.

The show seems to anticipate Billy Elliot, for this is a piece which focuses on industrial unrest, a brave choice of subject matter in mainstream fifties America. The action is largely set in the Sleep-Tite Pajama Factory in the American mid-west where the workers, agitating for a seven-and-a-half cent pay rise, are cursed with a bullying, skinflint boss, a fanatical time-and-motion man and a new supervisor who promptly falls for the bolshie union rep in charge of the grievance committee. Needless to say, true love doesn’t run smooth but turns out just dandy in the end.

Eyre’s production, with deft designs by Tim Hatley, captures the near sweatshop conditions of the factory, with the cast initially discovered working furiously at their sewing machines and steam presses in the opening number, Racing with the Clock, a thrilling piece drenched with bluesy saxophone playing.

Throughout Stephen Mear’s choreography hits the sweet spot, bursting with energy and invention, never more so than during the famous number, Hernando’s Hideaway, a tango tune in a sleazy nightclub where the boss’s secretary gets so drunk that her head keeps falling onto the table with a resounding thwack. The Steam Heat routine is a blast, too.

There is combustible chemistry between Joanna Riding’s feisty union rep and Hadley Fraser as the factory superintendent who sacks her for agitation, and the pair are in terrific form in the almost insanely exuberant, country-and western love duet, There Once Was A Man. Hadley also has a delightful number in which he performs a duet with his own voice on the Dictaphone.

A strong supporting cast features particularly fine work from Peter Polycarpou as the demented time-and-motion man (a role played by the great Max Wall in the original London production) and Alexis Owen-Hobbs as the bottle blonde boss’s secretary who leads the mayhem in Hernando’s Hideaway in those rare moments when her head isn’t hitting the table.

The Pajama Game may not be quite up there with Eyre’s landmark production of Guys and Dolls but there are moments when it comes exuberantly close.
- Charles Spencer

4 Star Rating
Evening Standard

Director Richard Eyre demonstrated with Guys and Dolls that he knows his way around a classic musical and so he proves again here. It's delicious — sizzling with hit songs and positive energy.

After the juicy haul of Olivier Awards for Chichester's West End transfer of Sweeney Todd, it's not surprising to find this ebullient theatre, riding high under artistic director Jonathan Church, starting its 2013 Festival season with another musical.

The Pajama Game (1954), with music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross and the book by George Abbott and Richard Bissell, 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.

Unionisation in a pajama factory might not sound the most promising material for a musical but try thinking that after you’ve heard the likes of Hey There (You with the Stars in Your Eyes), Once-a-Year-Day and Steam Heat. It’s a show sizzling with hit songs, the positive energy from which supercharges proceedings right from the opening moments. Nine oversize sewing machines rest on workbenches manned by an excitable — and tuneful — workforce, who are demanding a seven and a half cent pay rise. New factory superintendent Sid Sorokin (Hadley Fraser) is determined to make his mark by playing the tough guy but he hasn’t banked on the Grievance Committee coming in the shapely form of Babe Williams (Joanna Riding).

Director Richard Eyre demonstrated with his landmark production of Guys and Dolls at the National Theatre that he knows his way around a classic musical and so he proves again here, with supreme confidence.

There’s ease, grace and loveliness in every scene and he’s greatly aided by some cherishably limber choreography from Stephen Mear in a number of eye-catching set-pieces. These employees do so much dancing that it must be a welcome relief when they eventually sit down to work.

Fraser and Riding sing strongly and produce convincing sparks of mutual attraction and are buoyed by a host of finely tuned supporting turns. Claire Machin is a sassy secretary in the boss’s office and Peter Polycarpou a perilous knife-thrower of a jealous lover.  It’s unimprovably good. Hello again West End, I’d say.
- Fiona Mountford

 

4 Star Rating
Daily Mail

Poor Arthur Scargill. If only he had had 1950s showmakers Richard Adler and Jerry Ross doing his public relations.

Adler and Ross’s The Pajama Game is, plotwise, full of political hokum but this production, directed by Sir Richard Eyre, conceals some of the gaping flaps with its pzazz.

We are in Iowa at a pyjama factory in the 1950s. Handsome new superintendent Sid Sorokin (Hadley Fraser) is trying to increase production rates.

The sewing machine ladies are led by Babe Williams (Joanna Riding), head of the trade union’s grievance committee. She and Sid fall in lurve.

Could a trade unionist ever fall for a boss? Could a Righty ever woo and win a Lefty? Discuss.

Mr Fraser has a rich voice, good looks, a hint of Jimmy Stewart in his accent. Miss Riding’s voice could do with a squirt of oil in the first half. Her Babe is feisty.

But can we buy the chemistry between them? Just about. There is a lot of steam elsewhere, from the ironing boards to the factory whistle to Babe’s train-driver dad to whooshes of vapour during a song called Steam Heat.

Gosh, the singing is loud. This show is being staged in Chichester’s small Minerva while the main theatre is being renovated.

So keen are the chorus girls to sound like Iowans that their nasal squawks become almost coyote-ish. At times I wished I had brought some cotton wool.

Lots of the secondary parts are done with vim. Peter Polycarpou is on fine form as a knife-throwing time and motion man, jealous of his  girlfriend (Alexis Owen-Hobbs, all legs, chest, flat tummy and a nylon-looking blonde wig).

Claire Machin plays a bosomy, 40-something secretary with more than a hint of Mollie Sugden. Colin Stinton’s factory boss has side-twisted smiles and sock garters. The lighting goes big on warm oranges and smouldering blues.

The action is such fun that you can almost ignore the gross exaggeration of the ‘wicked bosses, heroic workers’ plot.

Next time you buy some pyjamas, see if they are made in the US of A. No? Now I wonder who is to blame.
- Quentin Letts


The Company

Creative Team

Richard Eyre

Director

Richard Eyre

Stephen Mear

Choreographer

Stephen Mear

Tim  Hatley

Designer

Tim Hatley

Gareth Valentine

Dance Arrangements, Musical Supervisor & Musical Director

Gareth Valentine

Howard Harrison

Lighting Designer

Howard Harrison

Chris Egan

Orchestrator

Chris Egan

Paul Groothuis

Sound Designer

Paul Groothuis

Alex Parker

Associate Musical Director

Alex Parker

Paul Benzing

Fight Director

Paul Benzing

Andy Barnwell

Orchestral Manager

Andy Barnwell

Pippa Ailion

Casting Director

Pippa Ailion

Jill McCullough

Voice Coach

Jill McCullough

Fiona  Dunn

Assistant Director

Fiona Dunn


Cast

Hadley  Fraser

Hadley Fraser

Sid Sorokin

Joanna Riding

Joanna Riding

Babe Williams

Jenna  Boyd

Jenna Boyd

Mae

Dan Burton

Dan Burton

Earl

Ricardo Coke-Thomas

Ricardo Coke-Thomas

Joe

Amy Griffiths

Amy Griffiths

Martha

Richard Jones

Richard Jones

Frank

Claire Machin

Claire Machin

Mabel

Eugene McCoy

Eugene McCoy

Prez

Jo Morris

Jo Morris

Rita/Dance Captain and Assistant Choreographer

Sophia Nomvete

Sophia Nomvete

Brenda

Landi Oshinowo

Landi Oshinowo

Poopsie

Alexis Owen-Hobbs

Alexis Owen-Hobbs

Gladys

Peter Polycarpou

Peter Polycarpou

Vernon Hines

Carl Sanderson

Carl Sanderson

Charley

John Stacey

John Stacey

Max Ganzenlicker

Colin Stinton

Colin Stinton

Hasler/Pop

Lauren Varnham

Lauren Varnham

Charlene



Booking Info

Running Time: 2 hours 45 minutes (including one 20 minute interval)

Tickets:

Previews/Press Night
£25.50

Matinees & Mon-Tue evenings
£31.50

Wed-Sat Evenings
£34.00

Discounts and concessions available
Terms & Conditions

Aged 18-25? An allocation of tickets priced at just £8.50 for all performances in both theatres will be released one month before each production opens. Find out more


Sold Out

Sold Out


Tell your friends!

You might also be interested in...


Calendar

28Nov
< November 2014 >
M T W T F S S
27
28
29
30
31
2
9
16
23
30
 

Latest News

Latest News

Read the latest news and updates from Chichester Festival Theatre here


 

View Seating Plans

View Seating Plans

View Festival Theatre and Minerva Theatre seating plans


 
Amadeus cast take a bow

Amadeus cast take a bow

 

 
Mind Unit - websites, content management and email marketing for the arts