Review: The Pajama Game – Broadway musical hits West End

Adam Wollerton

Is The Pajama Game the bump in the night or a West End snooze? I went along this week to check out the revival of this iconic piece of West End history as it starts its 20-week run at The Shaftesbury Theatre directed by none other than Sir Richard Eyre. The Pajama Game is the latest in the trend of blow-the-dust-off-the-cover revivals splurged on the West End as of late, but is it your average run-of-the-mill musical or is it topped off with buttons of originality?

We join the cast as the production opens at Sleep-Tite Pajama Factory, where the dashing new Superintendent Sid Sorokin, played charmingly by Michael Xavier, has just started his new role. When he comes head to head with the fearless and feisty Union Rep Babe Williams, played brilliantly by Joanna Riding, he begins to fall head over heels for her. But when the employees are refused a 7.5 cents per hour payrise, can love stand the strain of their conflicting beliefs?

This production is definitely one for the musical theatre kids out there and perhaps not so much your average viewer of theatre. The piece is a great part of theatre history, but it doesn’t quite have the exciting edge that it’s West End rivals do at the moment!

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However, I don’t say this to take anything away from the show. The chorus are incredibly strong with perfect diction, projection and with some light tints of perfected comedy. The real star quality that adds the spark to this production, and indeed every number, is Stephen Mear’s choreography. It’s original, exciting, intricate, and mesmerising – a real choreographic collaboration of excellence and ingenious.

Two comedy triumphs come in the form of Vernon Hines and Mabel, played by Peter Polycarpou and Claire Machin. These two play hilariously off each other and really generate a strong sense of their character. Polycarpou brings the quirky, untrusting, madly in love Vernon to life establishing a lovely mad-in-love riddled with unjustified jealous drawn from his own insecurity. He does it with great sensitivity but also with high energy during the scenes where the jealousy really stabs deep. Claire adds the bubbles to the fizz of comedy with her upbeat nature and constant poking-her-nose-in attitude throughout.

Another moment of genius in this production is the staging of the hit song, ‘Hey There’. Sid Sorokin mocks himself at the same time as achieving it’s status in the show as a love ballad that touches the heart of the audience. The reason that this particular ballad stands out is because Sid Sorokin sings it to his voice recorder on his phone and then plays it back and duets with it adding a few lovely placed harmonies – a remarkable feat and one that really stood out for me.

The production overall is well directed with high energy throughout and emanates class and the old-school musical vibe! If you’re really into your musicals and want to broaden your horizons with some traditional treading of the boards, then make sure you catch this production before we say goodnight to Sleep Tite Pajama Factory.

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About Adam Wollerton

Adam is a Writer and Director of Off-West End and West End Theatre Productions. He is also the Co-Founder of Curious Tales Theatre Company and is the author of LoveStuck: A New Musical.