Its 1950’s plot may be dated (sleepwear manufactured in America…not China); the salary raise demanded – more Bangladesh than Buffalo; and a timekeeper whose exhortations hark back to Simon Legree. But the music; lyrics and staging of Shooting Star’s presentation of Adler & Ross’s “The PAJAMA GAME” is a sure fire evening of melodic delight. Great cast, sexy costumes; fast pace and class ‘A’ choreography make this revival a ‘don’t miss’ offering.
Confession, I’m a little biased towards this particular Tony™ Award winner. Back in my Montreal days, the city; being only a short overnight train ride from Broadway; was a favored location for preview & tweak-rehearsals. My B.F.F.’s family owned Her Majesty’s Theatre and we could take dates to as many shows as we wanted. Hearing that Eddie Foy Jr. was to be on stage, we jumped at the opportunity. Janice Paige was okay; John Raitt seemed to only have a profile; Foy was outstanding, and a support/stand-in named Shirley MacLaine went unnoticed. But, just about every song became a ubiquitous Hit Parade favorite.
Twin directors Julie Buffett & Leeanne Guzzo have taken some liberties with the original but the resulting economies in no way detract from the overall impression. Sets may not be elaborate but easily reveal the sweatshop; office; home and nightclub locations. Beneficially, scene changes are expeditious and smooth. The major love interest duo, Alex Titei and Karen Chorney fit their Sid & Babe roles with more than just thespian and vocal talent. Their chemistry tangibly crosses the footlights. Titei possesses a smooth tenor voice that is enhanced with unforced projection and lyrical clarity. Ms. Chorney’s expressively mobile face and timing add a dimension to what this writer feels must be a professional singing background.
A strong subordinate contribution is provided by Luke Fillion whose character not only opens the show but offers some of the comic relief. His solos as well as slightly squabbling duets are presented by a triple-threat performer; he sings; acts and dances – all with that twinkle-eyed expression he presents to the audience. One of his foils is Alexandra Chappell, who’s Gladys has all the quick wit and instinctive timing the role requires. Sorbara’s chorus team are about as professional as anything we’ve seen in community theatre and their ensemble numbers are worth the plot’s desired 7½¢ …even adding in 60 years of inflation! There were some first-night miscues & nervousness, plus some erratic spotlighting & blocks, but hardly noticeable.
Directors Buffett & Guzzo have included choreographer Elisa Sorbara’s creations even in the duet pieces like ‘There once was a man’, “Her is…”, or “Small talk”; thus enhancing each song’s impression. The delightful trio scene that is supposed to urge the Unionists to strike is the famous ♪ Steam Heat that is both creative and original. The three performers are so perfectly synchronized that this bit is a show stand-out.
On the negative side, Dan Grieve’s eleven-piece orchestra was atrocious. During both the opening & inter-acte overtures, the brasses & winds were so conspicuously off-key as to have audience members covering their ears. His arrangements are far too creative & challeging for a vocal support situation. At some points, we were amazed that the singers managed to stay with the melody given their cacophonous backing. Rehearse, team; rehearse!!
Shooting Star’s PAJAMA GAME will be at the Citadel on Rebecca St. until Aug. 25th, I promise you’ll exit humming at least one of the popular and fun musical numbers the show has to offer! Pajama wearing by the audience is optional.