The Pajama Game first opened on Broadway on on May 13th 1954. This smash hit ran for over 1000 performances and featured Carol Haney, who won the Tony for best performance by a featured actress in a musical. The show also won Tony awards for Best Musical and Best Choreography for Bob Fosse.
OSMaD have pulled The Pajama Game out of the catacombs and injected a breath of fresh air into it. A show that is rarely performed these days (and it’s not hard to see why), it’s set in a pajama factory where the union are insisting on a 7&1/2 cent increase to their wages. The love story is between the head of the grievance committee and the new superintendent – they are on opposite sides of the union dispute, and they must set aside their differences in order for their love to work. When you add to the mix a host of good to great songs, you end up with a show that’s full of fun.
Richard Perdriau, Ben Hudson and Louisa Mitchell make a formidable trio when working together. Perdriau’s thoughtful direction goes hand in hand with Mitchell’s inspired choreography, and it’s all tied up together into a stylish package under the skilful baton of musical director Ben Hudson.
This production was stylish and slick from start to finish. When you walk in, you are greeted with an open stage with an industrial background, and frosted widows on each side of the stage, which change colour depending on the scene, and are highly effective. The projection of advertisements throughout the production is clever, but it wasn’t until near the end of act one that I noticed that it was the cast who appeared in the ads. Using the cast in the ads made it all that more brilliant, because they actually looked like they had been pulled from a vault and reproduced – very smart.
It was a one set show, with furniture wheeled in and out to depict the location. Perdriau ensured that the show flowed seamlessly. His well thought out set design, along with the Danny Issko’s stunning lighting design, make this production a joy to watch, especially the intense red stage we received in the ‘Hernando’s Hideaway’ scene.
Mitchell’s choreography was amazing, with every foot, hand and head placement right on the money. If you’re a Fosse fan, you’ll love ‘Steam Heat’. I certainly wasn’t expecting the entire cast to join in for the second half of this number, and Mitchell and the cast nailed it.
The moment Hudson brought down his baton for the first time and we heard the rich sound coming from the large orchestra, I knew we were in for a night of audio delight. Hudson had a firm grip on his orchestra and the harmonies coming from the well drilled ensemble were just as tight.
Maren Holm needs to be congratulated for her beautifully styled wigs, for they were stunning. This coupled with Chloe Thomas’s period costume design gave us a visual treat that was right on the mark.
The one thing that really shone in this production was the cast, as there was not a weak link, and everyone was one hundred percent committed to their characters.
The smooth baritone voice of Nathan Wright really set the pace in this production. Combined with his matinee idol good looks, Wright’s talents are not very common, so it’s great to see some new talent rising up through the ranks. Wright’s duet ‘There Once Was A Man’ with the shows leading lady, Emily McKenzie, was one of the highlights of the show. McKenzie just gets stronger every time I see her perform. Vocally, this role is really suited to McKenzie. McKenzie and Wright have a great chemistry together on stage, but I believe they can both give more. Being the preview before opening night, maybe they were holding back a bit, but I believe their performances will just keep growing as the season continues.
Kristy Griffen is a standout as the secretary, Mabel to David Bean’s CEO, Mr Hasler. Griffen and Jeremy Russo have a number of hilarious moments, especially during their duet, ‘I’ll Never Be Jealous Again’. Russo, along with Nathan Slevin as Prez, and Emma Harris in the role of Prez’s girlfriend, Mae round out a multi-talented supporting cast.
The ensemble is full of highly talented individuals who help bring this golden oldie to life. I didn’t stop smiling from the moment I sat down until the final curtain call. This show is a lot of fun, and you’ll leave humming one of the many songs, and perhaps think, ‘I didn’t know that song came from The Pajama Game!’ O lay!
The Pajama Game continues until October 22nd. Be aware of the unusual 7:45pm starting time!