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Friday, 11 July 2014

Theatre Review: The Pajama Game

On Monday I was lucky enough to see The Pajama Game at the Shaftesbury Theatre. I've wanted to see a Chichester Festival Theatre transfer for quite some time and this one didn't disappoint. It tells the story of Babe Williams (Joanna Riding) and Sid Sorokin (Michael Xavier) who are on opposite sites of an industrial dispute at the factory they work in - Babe is vigorously campaigning for a raise while Sid is having to tow the line of boss Hasler (Colin Stinton). Caught between a rock and a hard place, the romance between the two falters but Sid endeavours to rescue it - and the workers' cause.

First of all, the musical numbers are fantastic. Each one, I decided, was my new favourite, until it was superseded by the next. With a little distance, I think my favourites were probably 'I'm Not at All In Love', 'I'll Never Be Jealous Again', 'Once-a-Year Day', 'There Once Was a Man' and 'Hernando's Hideaway' (yes, I'm aware that's half the score!). 'I'm Not at All in Love' is Babe trying to convince her colleagues that she doesn't have a thing for Sid, quite unsuccessfully. The camaraderie in that number is brilliant and it fully establishes Babe's character. 'I'll Never Be Jealous Again' is a duet and dance between foreman Hines (Gary Wilmott) and Mabel (Claire Machin), with her testing his resolve to be more trusting of his girlfriend Gladys (Alexis Owen-Hobbs). Honestly, this pair form a wonderful double-act with many little comedic moments throughout the show, especially when Hines can't quite get his trousers back on (long story).'Once-a-Year Day' is a production number involving the whole cast at the factory picnic and the choreography, as it is throughout the musical, is exquisite. The energy of this cast is outstanding. 'There Once Was a Man' is another energetic song with Babe and Sid expressing their love for each other while 'Hernando's Hideaway' is an ensemble number where Alexis Owen-Hobbs shines as Gladys. There's nothing substandard about the songs I haven't mentioned but this is already turning into an essay!

The cast is superb. Joanna Riding captures Babe perfectly, from the punchy and spiky factory grievance committee spokeswoman down to the heartbroken woman who sings a reprise of 'Hey There'. She irresistibly captures the eye during any scene, even when she's not speaking. Equally, her chemistry with Michael Xavier works very well, especially in 'Small Talk' and 'There Once Was a Man'. Xavier himself portrays the conflicted Sid delicately enough and the rest of the cast all have their shining moments, some of which I've mentioned above. However, for me at least, Joanna Riding stands out from the excellent crowd.

The Pajama Game concludes a limited run on 13th September. I'd highly recommend it as a fun night out at the theatre with some memorable songs. Four days later, I'm still singing 'Hernando's Hideaway'...

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