Like the quilted dressing gown that one of the characters wears in the musical, The Pajama Game has gone out of fashion.
It’s one of those shows that everyone’s heard of but few have seen in recent years, especially on the amateur scene.
So bravo to Southey Musical Theatre Company for reviving a work which, in its infancy, starred Doris Day and later was the launchpad for Shirley MacLaine in a film version.
The troupe make this week’s production at the Montgomery Theatre in Sheffield very much their own with a few tweaks to ensure the Fifties musical about militant factory workers pushing for a pay rise is relevant to a 21st century audience. Thankfully, they stop short of bringing a onesie into the parade of nightwear which the cast and orchestra wear for the entire show.
The biggest diversion from the original is the introduction of new comical characters, Cupid the Goddess of Desire and Eros the God of Love who appear on stage every time there’s a sniff of romance in the air. Katie Mather plays a coquettish, wide-eyed Cupid and Jamie Nuttall a bespectacled geeky Eros. While I loved their performance, older spectators familiar with the original weren’t enamoured with the introduction of these characters and the pair drew muted applause at the end of their performance last night (Thursday).
That wasn’t the case for the leads - Mark Holmes, playing Sid the superintendent, and Gina Townend, playing Babe, the grievance committee head. They sing and dance their hearts out and the chemistry between them only comes with being a real-life couple, which they are. Mark and Gina cope ell with one of the trickiest songs in musical theatre - There Once Was A Man, which gallops along like a posse of thoroughbred racehorses.
Great work, too, from Andy Hibbert as the nerdy time study executive Vernon whose upright composure disintegrates into drunken stumbling when he thinks he’s losing the love of his life. Andy’s dancing with Rosie Dyson, who plays Mabel the factory secretary, is one of the high spots of Act One.
Dancing is among the best I’ve seen in an amateur show with the ensemble’s co-ordinated routines as slick as a well-oiled machine. Viv Siberry-Scott, in the role of Brenda, vamps it up with some dirty dancing guaranteed to set pulses racing.
Working on the premise that the militant pyjama factory workers have their hearts set on bedding each other, the whole show is played out on a set resembling a giant bed. There’s a massive headboard, with pillows and blankets stacked against it at the back of the stage while the floor and side panels are made to look like a well-sprung mattress. Lines of pyjamas, bunting, a flashing love heart and electric light drop into view at various points during the show.
With stand-out songs such as Steam Heat, Once-A-Year Day and Hernando’s Hideaway, this production is well worth swopping a night in front of the telly for a quality live show.
The Pajama Game is running at the Montgomery Theatre, Surrey Street, Sheffield, until Saturday, April 26.