Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Also see Gil's review of Barefoot in the Park
The show features a swift-moving book from George Abbott and Richard Bissell, which is based on Bissell's 1953 novel "7 ½ Cents," and a jazzy and rollicking score by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross to tell the story of the workplace romances and labor union woes at the Sleep-Tite Pajama Factory. The company's owner Mr. Hasler refuses to give in to the employee union's demand for a seven and a half cent per hour raise and trusts his newly hired supervisor Sid Sorokin to enforce his stance. When Sid falls for Babe Williams, the head of the union's grievance committee, tensions, both sexual and work-related, heat up, with Sid and Babe on opposite sides of the issue as the threat of a strike looms.
Adler and Ross also wrote the score to another 1950s classic romantic musical, Damn Yankees, and their score for Pajama Game features such memorable hits as "Steam Heat," "Hernando's Hideaway," and "Hey There." While Abbott and Bissell's book is a bit far fetched, with Sid and Babe falling head over heels in love and pronouncing their devotion to each other within minutes of meeting, the plot isn't entirely predictable and features plenty of fun character parts that Greasepaint's large, talented cast sink their comic chops into.
Rebecca Steiner and Bennett Wood form a charming and winning couple as Babe and Sid. Their singing voices are full and bright and blend together beautifully. Wood's version of "Hey There" is a knock-out, due to the period luster he brings to the lyrics that evoke a young Frank Sinatra. Steiner's facial expressions, especially when she is at odds with Wood, expertly portray how Babe is on different sides of the issues with Sid as their relationship runs hot and cold and they both stand firm for their principles.
Hayden Skaggs is having a blast as the factory foreman Hines, who is constantly jealous of his girlfriend Gladys, Hasler's secretary, played by Moorea Walker. Skaggs' lithe, tall body and humorous facial expressions bring a heightened hilarity to Hines' many jealous moments. Walker, along with Olivia Parker Swenson and Grace Carlson, make "Steam Heat" a crowd-pleasing showstopper full of sleek and stylized Bob Fosse-inspired movements from choreographer Emily Starrett, who also adds plenty of fun, humorous steps for the large ensemble. (Fosse choreographed the original production and film adaptation.)
Anand Khalsa's solid stage presence, strong singing voice, and humorous line delivery add pops of comic delight to the womanizing Prez and Alixandra Giordano's bright comic chops make Mae, the outgoing and fun loving factory worker, a fun and fiery girl. The supporting cast includes Grace Carlson, Justin Lytle, and Sean Lillis as Sid's secretary Mabel, Hasler, and Babe's dad, respectively, and all do well in creating personable and unique characters.
Director Beth Reynolds does good work to ensure the comic moments land, and the large ensemble are constantly exhibiting different gestures and movements, giving a natural appearance of a factory in motion. Music director J'ana DeLa Torre achieves a beautiful sound from the large cast and live band, though the overture seemed a bit slight, slow and unenergetic at the opening night performance. Fortunately, the rest of the music accompaniment is rich and full with a bright and breezy feeling. Michael Esparza's main set design achieves a vibrant factory feel and, with just a few small set elements, creates Sid's office and Babe's home. The rich and vibrant costumes from Benjamin Bozovich are filled with period patterns and designs, including various plaids and prints, bow ties and suspenders, while Dale Nakagawa's lighting and Peter Bish's sound deliver natural and clear results.
The plot of The Pajama Game may be slight and simple but the score is stellar and the book features fun and unique characters full of both humor and heart. Greasepaint Youth Theatre's production features a large cast that more than capable in bringing this classic musical to life and delivering a fun and enjoyable experience.
The Pajama Game runs through September 10th, 2017, at Greasepaint Youth Theatre at 7020 E. 2nd Street, in Scottsdale. For information and to purchase tickets call (480) 949-7529 or visit www.greasepaint.org.
Book by George Abbott and Richard Bissell, based on Bissell's novel "7 ½ Cents"
Cast: (in order of appearance)