Front Row Center
By Michael Warren
The Pajama Game
By Richard Adler and Jerry Ross
Directed by Peggy Lord Chilton
Music directed by Richard & Eleanor Stromberg
The Pajama Game was a very successful musical in the 1950s, and the original production won a Tony award for Best Musical. Later, the 2006 Broadway revival won a Tony award for Best Revival of a Musical. So the show came to Lakeside with excellent credentials, and many in the audience can still remember tunes as familiar as Hey There or Hernando’s Hideaway.
Happily, Peggy Lord Chilton and her team put on a slick well-rehearsed production. I particularly enjoyed the second half of the show, which included some of the best numbers. The first half had some rough spots, which was unfortunate because the cast and chorus were excellent and the show (as many of us will remember) is very entertaining.
In the lead roles, Jayme Littlejohn was cute and charming in the Doris Day part – “Babe” the leader of the Union’s Grievance Committee – and Vicente Vernon performed well as “Sid Sorokin,” the handsome new factory superintendent who falls in love with Babe. On occasion, it seemed that some tunes were set in a key outside Vicente’s normal vocal range, but nevertheless he sang with considerable energy. Rick Napier (a newcomer to the LLT stage) displayed great comedic talent as “Hines,” the factory timekeeper. Think of the Time I Save and I’ll Never Be Jealous Again were both hilarious numbers, the second one neatly performed with Ann Swiston as “Mabel” who is Sid’s secretary. I also enjoyed Harry Walker’s role as “Old Man Hasler,” the dinosaur boss of the company who refuses to grant a 7 ½ cent raise in hourly rates.
Alexis Hoff was the choreographer for the show, and also performed attractively as Hasler’s quick-witted secretary “Gladys.” She had a great number at the beginning of the second act in Steam Heat – performed with Hines and “Gus” (Ted Ferguson), and was also amusingly drunk (without overdoing it) at Hernando’s Hideaway. Keith Scott was suitably lecherous as “Prez,” the head of the union and a skirt chaser, despite being a married man, while Ann Loebach energetically played “Mae,” a member of the Grievance Committee who accepts Prez’s advances. I should also mention another reliable performance from Reginald Doresa, who came across well as “Pop,” Babe’s kind and agreeable father.
The pace was good and the chorus sang and performed with great discipline. I particularly enjoyed the chorus numbers Hernando’s Hideaway and 7 1/2 Cents. Also, there were some clever special effects in the knife-throwing scene, and a neat transition to Hernando’s Hideaway. In general, the choreography and the scene changes were smoothly done – a lot of good work backstage. I congratulate Peggy Lord Chilton and her Stage Manager Jerry McDonald and Assistant Stage Manager Gale Bildfell on pulling this complicated show together with some skill and making it seem easy.
Richard and Eleanor Stromberg were responsible for the Music Direction, and the well-designed sets were created by Peggy Chilton, Alex Pinkerton and Roberta Hilleman. This show was a lot of fun as a 1950s revival, and both the cast and the audience had a good time.
Next up (opening on April 2) is The Foreigner, a dark comedy by Larry Shue which concludes a season dominated by comedies. Maybe the LLT will consider other types of play (a mystery or a serious drama) for next year’s offerings. Whatever they choose to present, I look forward to another interesting and entertaining season in 2011/12.