Quote of the Day: One of the greatest musicals ever. The New Yorker
The Pajama Game is a classic musical with all the song and dance and sweet romance of the genre, similar in style to The Music Man. The show is based on a novel by Richard Bissell called 7½ Cents. The book is by George Abbott and Richard Bissell, music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, and it was Bob Fosse’s choreography debut for the 1954 premiere. It went on to win a Tony. It was revived in 1973 and 2006, where it won a Tony for Best Musical Revival. Harry Connick Jr. played the leading man, Sid Sorkin, and also played piano for Hernando’s Hideaway. That would have been fun to see!
Artistry’s production of The Pajama Game brings out all those classic elements, singable tunes, and stunning choreography that brought the original Broadway show so much success. Ben Bakken and Allyson Richert co-direct this fine cast, as well as doing choreography for some of the numbers along with featured choreography by Kelli Foster Warder and Elly Stahlke. The set design by Michaela Lochen puts you right into the Sleep Tight factory where most of the action takes place. Slight changes of lighting and set bring you to an outdoor picnic, Babe’s house, and of course, Hernando’s Hideaway, a bar tucked away where the workers go to unwind.
Eric Morris plays a charming Sid Sorokin, the new manager at the Sleep Tight factory. He’s new to town and sings about being lonely in A New Town is a Blue Town. You can’t help but fall in love with him as you listen to his sweet voice. That’s just what happens when Babe (Falicia Nichole) walks in and meets him for the first time. The sparks fly, but it’s not all love and romance. They are on opposite sides of wage negotiations as the workers gear up for a strike, demanding a 7½ cents raise. Babe’s character seems rather progressive for a 1950’s story about unions and women in the work force. She’s a leader of the union and won’t back down, not even for love.
Justin Cervantes plays Mr. Hasler, the stingy factory owner, and Pops, Babe’s dad, as well as a bartender. He does a great job of switching between characters and giving each one a unique personality. Carl Swanson is Hines, the man in charge of the workers. His character is often the comedic relief along with his secretary Mabel (Serena Brook) and his girlfriend Gladys (Maureen Sherman-Mendez). Mabel and Hines’ duet of I’ll Never Be Jealous Again was delightful!
The entire ensemble is strong. The dancing is fabulous. We especially loved Steam Heat with the three women (Elly Stahlke, Dayle Theisen and Maureen Sherman-Mendez). I would go back to the show just to see that number again! In fact, my friend loves this musical so much that she already purchased tickets to see it again!
I also want to mention Matthew J. Brightbill’s performance as Prez, the union leader who also has some extra-curricular activities with the ladies. Mae (Gabriella Trentacoste) questions his advances, but doesn’t entirely push them away. He’s smooth. He has great singing chops, too, and their duet of Her Is, the reprise was fun to watch, even if the syntax hurts your brain.
As with many classic musicals, the composers wrote songs that work as stand alone numbers. Probably the most popular one from The Pajama Game is Hey There, recorded by Rosemary Clooney, Bing Crosby, Sammy Davis, jr. and Better Midler, to name a few. In the musical, Sid sings it in the first act as he’s falling in love, and Babe sings it as kind of an echo in the second act as she’s realizing their relationship is doomed. Each one giving the song a unique emotion and letting their voices soar.
The Pajama Game is a lovely piece of musical theater, set in the 1950’s era. It has labor and management disputes, workplace spats and camaraderie, not to mention love affairs and gossip. And, of course, a gorgeous score, played on stage by a live band under the direction of Evan Tyler Wilson. The wonderful period costumes are designed by Rane Oganowski. Lighting design by Alice Endo and sound by Born into Royalty. Technical direction by Jared Sofstall.
You can see The Pajama Game at Artistry in Bloomington, MN through May 14, 2023. The Twin Cities Theater Bloggers are working with Artistry for a fun pajama night performance. I would happily see it again, if time allows. For now, I’ll settle into my couch and rewatch the 1957 film of The Pajama Game, starring Dorris Day and John Raitt. It’s delightful. You can even catch a glimpse of Fosse himself in Steam Heat, a favorite number.
*Update: “We’ve locked in $30 tickets ($30 includes fees) using the code PJPARTY for Thursday, May 4th.” The Twin Cities Theater Bloggers are hosting this event. Come in your favorite pajamas, if you like. Use the above code for discount tickets, and stay for the discussion after the show, if you’re able!
Go. Create. Inspire!
Journaling Prompt: Have you seen the stage production or film of The Pajama Game? Do you know the music? Which classic films, or stage musicals, are your favorite?