Playwrights George Abbott and Jerry Bissell and composers Richard Adler and Jerry Ross thought they had it made when their rambunctious hit “The Pajama Game” won the 1955 Tony awards for best musical and best choreography. But when their latest creation, a revival of their original work that features music straight from a Disney classic and the sexiness of, well, a 2006 Tony award winner for best revival of a musical, the foursome is enjoying yet another phenomenal success.
The School of Music’s “The Pajama Game,” which opened last night at the Mendelssohn Theatre and runs through Sunday, teases an audience of hopeless romantics and Les Mis rebels fighting for the underdog. It leaves almost nothing to the imagination – except how so few people know of its greatness.
Set in a ’50s pajama factory called Sleep Tite, hues of cotton-candy blues and pinks set the stage for a struggling superintendent, Sid Sorokin (Music School junior Garen McRoberts). Alongside his new job, he finds a fresh love – not of pajamas, but of Catherine “Babe” Williams (Music School senior Cortney Wolfson), a spunky one-woman union Grievance Committee.
Amid females on sewing machines, men shouting orders and all the cheesy gaiety of an episode of “Pleasantville” (with some fantastic choreography courtesy of John MacInnis), a company of assembly-line workers push out as much sleepwear as they can while fighting for a well-deserved seven-and-a-half-cent raise. As innocent as it sounds, the production is anything but. Director Mark Madama, assistant professor of music, believes the story tells something unique.
“(The Pajama Game) deals with what the 1950s was in relation to men and women, work and unions and the combining of the two stories,” Madama said. “This is a classic musical comedy and really an example of ‘Golden Age Broadway.’ “
The play’s social commentary grounds itself around women versus men in classic ’50s stereotypes – men doing the flirting and women basking in it. As Sorokin sings to Williams during a love scene, “I don’t wanna talk small talk now that I’m alone with you.” Lead by Babe, however, the women realize a sense of solidarity, gaining confidence in themselves and understanding that there are more important things than men – like taking control of a man, for instance.
“There were different roles of women (during this time) because this was a brand new era for them,” Madama said. “(The Pajama Game) portrays how men related to women and were forced to relate to women.”
Societal issues aside, the production can certainly be commended for its impeccable choreography, with dance numbers that keep the performers – and the audience – constantly on their toes. With exhausting routines like “Hernando’s Hideaway” and fresh lighting techniques among the gibberish lyrics of “Steam Heat,” “The Pajama Game” warmly capitalizes on the sum of its parts..
Madama places no little faith in the show’s entertainment value..
“It deals with unions, and then it’s fun,” he said. “It contrasts the other shows we’re doing this term and it’s fun, funny, lively and colorful.”
Through upbeat and fabulous voices alongside plenty of good tunes, the comedic “Pajama Game” leads its viewers down a path full of sexy looks and vivacious characters, only to bring them to one conclusion: Men and women aren’t the only ones who can seduce audiences – “The Pajama Game” does just fine.
The Pajama Game
Tonight and tomorrow at 8 p.m. Sunday at 2 p.m.
At the Lydia