The Pajama Game
Book by George Abbott and Richard Bissell
Music and Lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross
Directed and choreographed by Earl Weaver
Musical direction by Chris Endsley
Starring Jason Nettle and Jessie Booth
UCF Conservatory Theater, Orlando FL
Let’s say Bob Fosse was leading the garment workers union, and he had an unnatural obsession with Argyle and Mondrian. That’s what your see at this well constructed revival of the 1954 Tony winner “The Pajama Game,” an unlikely mixture of romance, union action and high energy dance. Sid Sorokin (Nettle) is on the front lines of the Sleep-Tite PJ Factory: below him are the hourly laborers turning out hideously loud sleepwear for the color blind, above him is the sort of inflexible and slightly crooked management that got our automotive, metalworking and electronics industries shipped over to Asia. The Big Boss Mr. Hasler (Jay Pastucha) is genuinely unlikable, and Grievance Committee leader Babe Williams (Booth) is a hot post war Rosie the Riveter type. Sid falls for her and slips and into a brutal struggle to raise wages by $0.075 per hour. There’s an element of free love floating around this shop and the big annual company picnic there’s enough sex to embarrass Betty Page. Even union President Prez (Parker Slaybaugh) gets lucky with winsome Mea (Laura Adams) and the shop’s drunken Time and Motion expert Hines (Justin Mousseau) demonstrates his knife throwing skills. What could possibly go wrong?
Very little, actually. Hines’ microphone made him tinny and hard to hear, but everyone else came though five by five. The theme of this show was motion – Sid Sorokin looked like he was made of rubber, Prez did some amazing hand flips and punched himself out, and when nothing else was happening, there was as full blown dance arrangement. The Steam Heat Number has almost nothing to do with the plot, but black bowlers and Jazz hands made it one of the best parts of the show featuring Ms. Adams in front of Daniel Longacre and Andrew Connors. Other highlights are Sid’s “A New Town is A Blue Town” and “Hey There” and the big production number “Once A Year Day featured everyone dressed in the most amazingly tacky sun dresses and shorts.
This is a Big Musical from the glory days of Big Musicals, and this production does justice to the music, characters and story, and the entire show was a joy. Everything was bigger than life, except the main character who must decide between the woman he loves and the job he needs. When pushed to a hard decision, Sid does what he needs to do and then goes one step further and roots out the cause of the show’s central conflict. This is theater the way God and Bob Fosse intended it to be.
For more information on UCF Conservatory Theatre, visit http://www.theatre.ucf.edu