The Pajama Game review from 1999

  • Date:
    Wednesday, October 6, 1999


    The show has music and lyrics by Richard Alder and Jerry Ross and a book by George Abbott and Richard Bissell, and is directed by Simon Callow.

    The story takes place in the 'Sleep-Tite Pajama Factory', where the union is negotiating a pay rise of seven and half cents. However, when the leader of the Grievance Committee (Babe) falls in love with the manager (Sid), the blossoming of their romance will be equally difficult to negotiate. ,p> This 1950s show may have been good in its day, but it is dated now. The songs are bland, the choreography prosaic, and the show is totally miscast. The original Broadway production catapulted such talents as Bob Fosse and Shirley Maclaine to stardom and was a great success. I will be surprised if this show is still playing at the Victoria Palace Theatre at Christmas! The auditorium was half-empty and the show received a despondent applause from the audience.

    Leslie Ash as 'Babe' is sexy and pretty and really looks the part, but she cannot sing the songs with any passion and she certainly cannot dance! Graham Bickley as 'Sid' has a fine voice, but he too fails to show any emotion or fire. John Hegley is not funny playing 'Vernon J Hines', the crazy time and motion man who is good at knife throwing! However, there are some convincing and enjoyable performances from Anita Dobson as Mable', John Levitt as 'Myron' and particularly from Jenny-Ann Topham as 'Gladys'.

    The popular press were not too impressed with this show either: NICHOLAS DE JONGH of THE EVENING STANDARD says, "The pyjamas are fine but where's the passion…" BENEDICT NIGHTINGALE of THE TIMES says, "You can hum along, but that's about all." SHERIDAN MORLEY of TELETEXT says, "Simon Callow's claims that this is one of the best Broadway musicals ever are in my view misplaced. I would not put it even in the top 20, because the songs in no way advance the story." CHARLES SPENCER of THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says, "Unfortunately in Callow's production the show seems over-energetic, undersexed and desperately short of real star quality." However, not all reviews were bad, ALASTAIR MACAULAY of THE FINANCIAL TIMES says, "Crazy fun on the factory floor" and goes on to say "Simon Callow's new production is spot-on - most of the time."

    I definitely cannot recommend this production, particularly compared to the many other musicals presently playing in the West End. However, although much of the audience obviously did not like the show, I noticed a few who did!

    (Darren Dalglish)

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