Shaftesbury Theatre, London
Book by George Abbott and Richard Bissell
Directed by Richard Eyre
|Michael Xavier and Joanna Riding|
Following the triumphant West End transfers of Singing In The Rain and Sweeney Todd, Chichester’s 2013 smash hit The Pajama Game has snuggled itself into London’s Shaftesbury Theatre for a twenty week run.
In a sugar coated tale of workers vs capitalism, the story follows the cute but unlikely love that develops between factory Superintendent Sid Sorokin and Union rep Babe Williams. The Pajama Game is a show that whilst being based on a simple story of moral granite relies heavily on glitzy sparkling routines to entertain. To that end, Richard Eyre’s direction and Stephen Mears’ choreography are best performed framed by a classic West End proscenium in contrast to the open studio thrust of Chichester’s Minerva. The journey up the A3 has done this show a power of good.
Many of the original cast have travelled to London and if you can, get in early to see Peter Polycarpou reprise his Hines, a carefully crafted comic masterpiece as the factory time and motion supervisor. Manic, jealous and hilariously delivered, his vocal presence and knife-throwing abilities are a treat. Another émigré from Chichester is Alexis Owen-Hobbs who plays Hines’ implausibly young and glamorous sweetheart Gladys. Owen-Hobbs’ dancing is sensational. She wows in the act two opener Steam Heat and amongst the splendours of Mear’s visionary Hernando’s Hideaway, together with the company, she creates the most exciting Latin dance work in town. Clare Machin’s Mabel is another fine example of well honed flirtatiously mature comic excellence whilst Eugene McCoy’s union chief Prez defines lascivious, chasing anything in a skirt.
Leading the line are Joanna Riding’s feisty Williams and Michael Xavier’s Sorokin. Riding is a lithe and energetic babe of a Babe. She created the role at Chichester and hers’ in particular is a performance best suited to being played out on a traditional stage, rather than the searching scrutiny of the Minerva.
Xavier defines smouldering cool. He is perfectly cast and whilst Hadley Fraser, last year’s Superintendent could sing, Xavier adds a smooth and gorgeously chiselled gravitas that oozes sex appeal. And of course his signature song Hey There (You with the Stars in your Eyes), gloriously duetted with himself on a dictaphone, is the spine-tingling highlight of the first half.
The Pajama Game may be affectionately dated, but with a loving eye to detail from all of Eyre’s creative team and brimming with well crafted songs it remains a musical theatre treat.
Runs until 13th September 2014