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Jonsson Abandons West End Pajama Game

By • West End
Swedish TV presenter Ulrika Jonsson has pulled out of the West End run of Simon Callow's revival of The Pajama Game. The 1954 musical comedy is due to open at the Victoria Palace on 21 September 1999, following previews from 10 September. Claiming vocal problems, Jonsson, who was to make her West End debut playing the lead role of Babe Williams, a worker at the Sleep-Tite pajama factory who makes the mistake of falling in love with her boss during union negotiations, will be replaced by TV actress Leslie Ash.

A spokesperson for the show said, “Ms Jonsson felt that after 12 weeks of rehearsal and performance, eight performances a week would place too great a strain on her vocal stamina. Reluctantly, therefore, she has stepped down.”

Jonsson made her stage debut when the show premiered in April at the Birminghan Repertory Theatre for a five week run. She reportedly took extensive singing lessons to prepare for the part. Now, Babe Williams, played by Doris Day in the film version, will be taken up by another actress who has never performed in a West End musical. Ash is best-known for her long-running role as Deborah in the British television sitcom Men Behaving Badly.

Ash will be joined by other members of the original Birmingham cast, including poet and stand-up John Hegley as Vernon Hines, the factory s Time and Motion Study Man, former EastEnders soap star Anita Dobson as secretary Mabel, Graham Bickley as boss Sid and Alison Limerick as flirty factory worker Gladys.

Callow, who worked for several years to make the show a reality, has also gathered together an eclectic but impressive creative team. American abstract painter Frank Stella, one of the leading figures of late 20th century art, has designed the set. Britain's leading saxophonist John Harle, who works regularly with Paul McCartney and Elvis Costello, supervises the music. And David Bintley, artistic director of the Birmingham Royal Ballet, is in charge of the choreography.

The Pajama Game is based on the novel Seven-and-a-half-cents by Richard Bissell with music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross and book by George Abbott and Richard Bissell. Songs include 'Hernando's Hideaway', 'Hey There (you with the stars in your eyes)' and 'Steam Heat'.


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