The Pajama Game**** (Shaftesbury Theatre)

Posted: May 27, 2014 in Theatre

photo-65Every cloud has a silver lining. The failure of Tim Rice’s latest musical left a window for this revival, first seen in Chichester last year, to get a West End staging before the next musical moves in in the Autumn, and the early closure of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s latest released Joanna Riding from a bit part so that she can return to her starring role. As a general rule, maybe it is not such good news that new work is nudged out by old favourites, but it is worth making an exception here. With words and music by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, this show opened in 1954 and the songs – Hey ThereOnce a Year Day, Hernando’s HideawaySteam Heat, etc, etc – play like the 1950s song book. There is not a single dud amongst them. The book by George Abbott and Richard Bissell, something to do with a strike in a pajama factory, is not so hot, more corny as candy in August, but with songs like these, it is hard to care. The show has connections with and some similarities to Guys and Dolls, which Richard Eyre directed at the National Theatre in the 1980s, and he tackles it with similar panache, always avoiding the danger of making it seem like a museum piece. Riding is perfect as a 2014 Doris Day, playing Babe, the feisty strike leader, but Michael Xavier steals the show; playing Sid. the superintendent with one eye on proving himself to management and the other on Babe, he is a real find. There are a host of superb comic cameos and a hard working chorus line that gives exuberant energy to the many big production numbers. Nostalgic and fun, a real treat.

Performance date: 26 May 2014

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