The Pajama Game shines at Shaftesbury
Transferring from the Chichester Minerva to the Shaftesbury Theatre is no mean feat, but Richard Eyre's 'joyous' revival has pulled it off
…The musical numbers are seamlessly incorporated. There's an overall grace and fluency about Eyre's production that can only come from treating the material with utter respect, and that's not a deadly virtue; or, at least, it's not here… in the casting of Michael Xavier as the factory superintendent, Sid Sorokin, and Joanna Riding as the bolshie union rep, Babe Williams, they have two delightful stars who inhabit their roles and jim-jams with perfect precision and in perfect harmony… the whole confection bubbles like a fresh water stream so that you have to pinch yourself to remember Jean-Luc Godard's unappetising recommendation of the show as "the first left-wing operetta." The hell it is, but politics can be fun, too, it seems.
…this tale of love blooming between a manager and a shop steward at an American pyjama factory is Broadway fluff… Eyre's colourful production ensures that it's delightful fluff, though Xavier bewitches with his opening song, "A New Town is a Blue Town"… then duets with his Dictaphone on "Hey There (You with the Stars in your Eyes)". He holds the stage with ease… Elsewhere bustling big numbers such as "Once-a-Year Day" find Eyre and Mear seizing on chances for showmanship, while the stage switches smoothly into the nightclub setting for "Hernando's Hideaway". Not every tune is as famous or as catchy as these, but the lyrics are witty throughout, and Peter Polycarpou provides good high comedy as a jealous, knife-throwing time-and-motion man.
It's a big leap from the Minerva in Chichester to the Shaftesbury, but Richard Eyre's joyous production of this 1954 musical effortlessly expands to fill the space… Michael Xavier as Sid is new to the production and his abrasive charm is well matched by Joanna Riding's mix of gritty determination and good nature as the passionate Babe. But there are no minor roles in an Eyre musical and what is striking is the strength of the surrounding cast. Peter Polycarpou as an insanely jealous shopfloor Othello, Alexis Owen-Hobbs as his flighty inamorata, Colin Stinton as the Scrooge-like factory owner and Claire Machin as a fantasising secretary all perform with a dynamism that sends you out into the street uplifted.
…watching Richard Eyre's joyful production of this musical comedy, with music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross and a punchy book by the Broadway legend George Abbott and Richard Bissell, it often feels like one of the most zingingly entertaining tune-and-toe shows you have ever seen… Joanna Riding is touching as the heroine who puts the interest of the union before the demands of her heart, and there is a real fizz in her relationship with Michael Xavier's Sid, who, in one of the show's wittiest and most touching numbers, "Hey There (You With the Stars in Your Eyes)", duets with himself on the office dictaphone… Eyre's effervescent production marvellously captures the show's constantly bubbling wit with the help of Stephen Mear's often dazzlingly inventive choreography.
A show about an industrial dispute simply should not be this much fun... The first number, "Racing with the Clock", gives us 1950s American production at full-pelt: a cheery bunch of workers busting a gut to keep up with the growing consumer demand for comfort and elegance in their pyjamas... The production seethes with energy: the whole workforce seems ready to burst a button - if they weren't so busy dancing they might challenge more fundamentally their sweatshop conditions and crooked boss... The elastic begins to sag slightly in the second half, with a rather meandering sequence leading to Sid finally saving the day. But it's so joyously performed that it is hard to mind.