The original Broadway version of The Pajama Game premiered in 1954, and this new production at the Shaftesbury is full of retro ‘50s charm. The costumes and set are simply sumptuous, and while the show itself is 60-years-old, this feels both fresh and modern – thanks in part to its fast pace and lightly peppered humour. Highlights include several stand-out dance numbers, such as the Act Two opener ‘Steam Heat’ and the tour de force ‘Once-A-Year Day’, which seems to go on for a full 10 minutes before leaving the audience agog as to where this company gets its unbridled energy from.
Joanna Riding – previously overshadowed in shows such as The Umbrellas of Cherbourg – shines as leading lady Babe; while Michael Xavier is instantly likeable as her love interest and sparring partner, Sid Sorokin – of course it also helps that he’s unequivocally gorgeous, towering above most of his cast mates with a debonair sensibility. It’s clear everyone is having a ball, and the show rolls along from one gorgeously staged number (opening song ‘Racing with the Clock’) to another (iconic duet ‘There Once Was a Man’).
Special mention has to go to both Claire Machin and Peter Polycarpou who, quite independently, are comedic geniuses: however, it’s when they get together for the hilarious ‘I’ll Never Be Jealous Again’ that something truly special happens – Machin, in particular, is a consistent scene-stealer as Mabel.
There are some misgivings: peripheral romances seemingly remain unresolved, and the villain of the piece – Colin Stinton’s Vizzini-inspired Mr Hasler – is just is too likeable to really be the bad guy. That said, the choreography, staging and overall lightness of the show more than make up for any misgivings. Ironically, given its age, The Pajama Game leaves you with a feeling not unlike going to bed in brand new sheets: it feels cool, soothing and, yet, oddly familiar. Miss this at your buttoned-down nightdress peril.
If you want to see The Pajama Game you can find tickets here
Words: Matt Buttell