The audience loved it. Rivertown Repertory’s opening night performance of The Pajama Game brought lots of laughs, much applause and a standing ovation from most of the audience. The Richard Adler –Jerry Ross musical comedy, originally produced a half century ago, is still entertaining for a fun night out.
Set in a 1954 pajama factory, The Pajama Game pits management against unionized labor in the strike-threatening quest for a seven and half cent per hour raise – yes! times have changed. You’ll see the traditional romance, comedy and smidgen of intrigue found in an old-fashioned musical.
Director Gary Rucker, who also played the nerdy leach and union president Prez, chose an elevated comedy approach to the production. A bit much in some areas, such as a knife throwing act, the emphasis on laughs and spotlighting support characters, was an invigorating approach to a production that’s been around for a long time. For the older crowd that has more than likely seen on stage several times or the movie version (think, Doris Day), the presentation was fresh, not boring. For Generation Next and younger, the exaggerated comedy softens the stuck-in-the-fifties overtones. Let’s face it, no matter how old or young you are – everyone laughs when a guy drops his pants and has zipper sticking problems. Look for it, you know it’s coming, but you will still laugh.
Congratulations to Rucker for great casting. The leads are not only skilled but also physically suitable for their characters. Extra kudos for delivering a cast who speak and sing clearly. Even if you are not familiar with script, music and lyrics you have no trouble understanding each word.
True-life married couple Lucas Harms as Sid Sorokin and Megan Sauzer Harms as Babe Williams bring energy, enthusiasm and extremely pleasant voices to the stage. He performs “Hey There (You with the Stars in Your Eyes)” in a delightful style that will have you humming or singing for many hours after the show, Her reprise is equally appealing. Their numbers together, especially “There Once was a Man,” are well executed - you wouldn’t mind if they lasted just a little bit longer.
Clearly a crowd favorite, Bob Edes Jr., as Hines, the time study specialist, is smooth and comfortable on stage. Although his borderline slapstick seems a bit overdone at times, Edes brings community theatre to a higher level of excellence and enjoyment. From opening to finale, even through the superfluous “Jealousy Ballet” you understand Edes is a star in this show.
It’s great to see Carrie Black, continually emerging from chorus to lead roles. If you’ve seen her before, you know she can dance. But she can sing, act and initiate quite a few laughs. Partnering with Edes in comic relief as Gladys the pajama factory secretary, Black is a joy to watch. Her mastery of extremely high-heeled shoes –for walking and dancing – is a talent in itself.
Black, P.J. McKinnie and Dwayne Sepcich are well received in the well executed “Steam Heat”, energizing the audience early in the second act. Claire Conti and Frannie Rosenberg, as employees of the pajama factory, should also be commended for their comical contributions. Rosenberg’s delivery (imagine Yat with a slightly northern accent) is funny and fitting for a hard-working factory girl.
Kelly Fouchi’s choreography is just right to accommodate diverse abilities without sacrificing the production’s abundant dance numbers. Set design by Rucker and Chris Ward is great from sewing machines to a fifties-styled kitchen. The orchestra, under the direction of Lori DeWitt, works well including a group of several young musicians.
Back Row Facts:
Length of play – two hours and ten minutes.
Language – no bad or offensive language.
Lewd factor – nothing to make anyone blush.
Family fitness - this is a good production for introducing young people to traditional musical comedies. Depending on the child, a four or five-year-old could make it all the way through with no problems.
It’s a puzzlement! Why does Prez bring a suitcase to the company picnic? Great prop for great choreography, but is there a ham sandwich inside or what?
Click here to see 'The Pajama Game' StageClick page
Click here to see Tricia Danflous' StageClick page