See also Chichester Festival Theatre. Each summer a musical beats at the heart of the Festival, surrounded by world premieres as well as brand-new productions of classic dramas and comedies, all of the highest quality. Set in the beautiful surroundings of Oaklands Park, Chichester Festival Theatre is one of the UK's flagship theatres and has an enviable reputation for excellence. Four of Festival 2010’s ten productions went on to have lives beyond Chichester, touring nationally and/or transferring to the West End. Artistic Director: Jonathan Church Executive Director: Alan Finch
Love blossoms in a pajama factor. Written in 1954. When Sid Sorokin is appointed superintendent at the Sleep Tite Pajama Factory, all he wants is to settle in and keep his job. Things become complicated, however; when he falls for Babe Williams - the leader of the Workers' Grievance Committee. Set in the 1950's middle America, this show is full of colourful characters including a jealous ex knife thrower and a sleazy corrupt boss, as well as such well known songs as 'Steam Heat' 'Hernando's Hideaway', 'I'm Not At All In Love' and 'This is My Once a Year Day'.
Richard Eyre's production of Adler and Ross's musical The Pajama Game opened at the Minerva Theatre Chichester last night (29 April 2013).
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 in this delightful romantic comedy?
… The Pajama Game is in keeping with its recent musicals and if doesn't quite have the heft of previous productions, it's still energetically staged, with some decent numbers and neat comic touches… Fraser starts off hesitantly but quickly finds his feet... Riding captures the sparkiness of a union organizer and sings well enough but they're a curiously unromantic couple, with little real spark… There are far brighter performances… The show is briskly directed by Richard Eyre and snappily choreographed by Stephen Mear. Chichester seems to have developed a production line of its own when it comes to musicals and this is, on the whole, a fine addition to its list of recent successes.
…It’s a show sizzling with hit songs, the positive energy from which supercharges proceedings right from the opening moments… 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.
...Claire Machin tips the wink delectably as Mabel, the well-groomed, comfortably proportioned secretary... Is The Pajama Game in the top ten great American musicals, as Eyre contends? To my mind, the show bears the same relation to that status as a bag of plums does to a great fruit cake. But then again, what a succession of highlights it offers. A tinselly camp “Hernando's Hideaway”, a drolly sizzling “Steam Heat”, Hadley Fraser singing to his own dictaphone-recorded voice in the lovely “Hey There (You With The Stars in Your Eyes)” are among the pleasures of a production that feels a bit hyperactive for the intimate space at the moment and should be even more pleasurable when it has had time to calm down a bit.
…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… 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… 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)… The action is such fun that you can almost ignore the gross exaggeration of the ‘wicked bosses, heroic workers’ plot…
…Studio productions of big musicals can refocus them sharply, but this one sometimes seems over-busy on this tight stage, though it is resourcefully designed by Tim Hatley… And Stephen Mear offers characteristic choreographic invention that tips a hat (in every sense) to original Broadway choreographer Bob Fosse… and the equally steamy Alexis Owen-Hobbs dancing up a storm accompanied by two appropriately angular male dancers… There are fantastic numbers like “Hey There” and “A New Town is a Blue Town” (both feelingly sung by Fraser, who is a treat in and out of pajamas), and a hilarious comic turn from the wonderful Peter Polycarpou that virtually steals the show…
These are strange times for Chichester. The theatre is experiencing a rich run of success with London transfers aplenty and a regular spot at awards nights and yet, in the middle of this golden period, the main theatre is closing down for a year.
So, in a pared down season, there are only five new productions, no easy place to hide a dud then. Happily, The Pajama Game is in keeping with CFT's recent musicals and if doesn't quite have the heft of previous productions, it's still energetically staged, with some decent numbers and neat comic touches.
The story is ludicrous even by the standards of Broadway musicals, while the pajama factory boss with his diatribes against unions, communists and foreigners is far too much of a caricature. Modern audiences may find the power of the union rather strange - it's hard to imagine now that small disputes could quickly lead to industrial action.
The central premise is that a love affair between a union organiser and a manager runs into difficulties during a period of workplace strife - culminating in a slow down. That this would have an effect on their relationship would seem obvious to everyone but seems to shock them to the core.
Hadley Fraser and Joanna Riding play the central pair, Sid and Babe, the lovers across the industrial divide. Fraser starts off hesitantly but quickly finds his feet, his smooth tenor doing justice to Richard Adler and Jerry Ross-written ballads "Hey There" and "Small Talk". Riding captures the sparkiness of a union organizer and sings well enough but they're a curiously unromantic couple, with little real spark. You feel that their union is going through a slow down of its own.
There are far brighter performances: Peter Polycarpou as jealous, knife-throwing time and motion man Hines, and Claire Machin as a sardonic secretary provide most of the comedy; their number together "I'll Never Be Jealous Again" is the standout song of the first act. Alexis Owen-Hobbs as Glady, the object of Hines' affections is also strong - her whimpering sobs after being admonished by her boss is one of the comic highlights. Praise too for Colin Stinton as the grasping boss and Babe's amiable and socially inept father.
The show is briskly directed by Richard Eyre and snappily choreographed by Stephen Mear. Chichester seems to have developed a production line of its own when it comes to musicals and The Pajama Game is, on the whole, a fine addition to its list of recent successes.
Whatsonstage.com - Discount London theatre tickets, theatre news and reviews, Theatre videos, Theatre discussion, National Theatre Listings. Covering London's West End, all of Theatreland and all UK theatre. The best
for London Theatre Ticket Discounts.