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The Pajama Game
a kate west review
music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross
book by George Abbott and Richard Bissell
based on "7 1/2 Cents" by Richard Bissell
directed by George Strattan & choreographed by Orlando Alexander
at the Glendale Centre Theatre, 324 N. Orange Street, Glendale 91203
running May 25th through June 2005; contact (818) 244-8481


A community theater favorite, "The Pajama Game" is a light-hearted, frothy musical with no particular message, other than it's grand to sing and to be in love. The story takes place in a pajama factory, where fun loving but disgruntled workers aim to unionize and raise their pay rate. The latest supervisor to take on the mantle of authority is Sid Sorokin (Carlos Martin) who butts heads with the leader of the Grievance Committee, factory worker Babe Williams (in this performance, Lowe Taylor). Of course they fall in love and of course there's a happy ending - this is a Broadway/Hollywood musical, after all.

Fans of the Doris Day /John Raitt 1957 movie will be happy to know that this production is pretty close to the film. The same show stopping numbers delight audiences here: the quintessential Bob Fosse slickness in "Steam Heat," as well as the hummable tunes "Hey There", "The Pajama Game" and "Hernando's Hideaway". There are some new ones too, but you'll need to see the show and discover those on your own. Choreographer Orlando Alexander liberally channels original Bob Fosse and adds his own style as well. Particularly memorable is "Racing with the Clock", where factory workers delightfully synchronize rolling chairs and sewing machines old Hollywood style. The whole ensemble works well together, including leads, character roles and chorus, although there are some side plots that go nowhere, such as Prez (Daniel Thomas) chasing every girl, even though he's a married man.

Sid and Babe go back and forth on the pay raise issue, while co-worker Hines (Danny Michaels) narrates parts of the story, in between slapstick routines with his exasperated girlfriend Gladys (Ann Myers). Most of the actors are strong, especially Danny Michaels, whose strong stage presence earns him the crowd-favorite award. He starts the show with "The Pajama Game" and charms us with "I'll Never Be Jealous Again" with Lois Wright Descault as Mabel. Ann Myers , as Gladys, is showcased in "Steam Heat" as a dancer, but doesn't really sing, except for speak-singing "Hernando's Hideaway." The real singer is Lowe Taylor, whose lovely lyrical voice demonstrates simple emotion in "There Once Was a Man" and in her solo reprise of "Hey There" (inexplicably interrupted by stagehands changing the set). Carlos Martin is fine as Sid, although a bit operatic for the small space and also a tad aggressive with those amorous embraces with Babe. The play is set in 1954 - in Iowa - a time of innocence, yet double entendres often sneak through in this production, which is rather inconsistent.

The Glendale Centre Theatre players perform this in the round (arena-type seating, where every side of the stage is exposed to audience), a challenging space for any production, but especially a Broadway-type show like "The Pajama Game". Director George Strattan does a marvelous job with the space at hand, a veteran of many such productions in that same venue. Actors run up and down the aisles, using every possible space, and while there is no real "set" to speak of, their world is definitely conveyed. It's a fun show, requiring no thought whatsoever. Fair warning to the die-hard musical theater crowd: the music by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross is eclectic. "There Once Was a Man" has a slight down home, western theme, contrasting the sexy, sophisticated "Steam Heat" and "Hernando's Hideaway" numbers, etc. And there isn't much of a through-line to connect the strangely different numbers. Still, the audience doesn't seem to mind (comprised mostly of fiercely loyal subscribers) and the homespun speech at the beginning by Tim Dietlein (co-producer with Brenda Dietlein) settles you in for a cozy night so you almost don't mind the occasional chatter from some of the over-excited theater patrons. The highly entertaining show tunes alone will stick in your head for days.


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