home | art & architecture | books & cds | dance | destinations | film | opera | television | theater | archives
The Roundabout Theatre Companys revival of the 1950s
Richard Adler and Jerry Ross musical, The Pajama Game, was a hot ticket before
the curtain ever went up on the first preview. The good news is that the production,
which is directed ably, if a bit predictably, by Kathleen
Act One is filled with the sort of shtick and over-exuberant generic Broadway choreography that is found in just about every revival of a mid-century musical. The book, by George Abbott and Richard Bissell, revolves around the seemingly doomed love affair between a factory supervisor and a union leader at a time of a hostile labor negotiation. There is not much to the story (boy meets girl, loses girl and subsequently gets her back rather easily) and several secondary plotlines are invented to sustain the show through two acts.
However, the razor-thin book and contrived scenarios are rescued by a bevy of veteran performers, whose standouts include Jen Cody, as a saucy factory worker, and Megan Lawrence as the beleaguered girlfriend of the possessive Hines (Michael McKean in a terrific supporting performance.) Act Two picks up considerably; the choreography shifts away from the cutesy, prancing, arms-akimbo moves of the first act and improves greatly with the Fosse throwback, Steam Heat, and the fantastically frenetic Hernandos Hideway.
Marshall has two huge weapons in her arsenal in Harry Connick, Jr. and Kelli OHara as the shows star-crossed lovers. The Pajama Game marks the stage debut of Mr. Connick, who quite surprisingly turns out to be a revelation. His acting may not have the polish and nuance of more seasoned stage performers, but his inexperience serves his character, factory supervisor Sid Sorokin well. Sid is a mans man, unpolished, direct and overtly physical. Hes the kind of guy that loves to roll up his sleeves and repair machines and the performers earnest, straightforward approach is right on target.
There is no denying that the handsome Mr. Connick is comfortable on a stage. He has a hypnotic stage presence and magnetism that are unrivaled. Apart from not being too hard on the eyes, Connick has a rich, jazzy and melodic speaking voice that is so smooth one almost believes he is singing his dialogue. But it is during the musical numbers that Connick excels and the thunderous applause that follows each of his numbers could very well bring the American Airlines Theatre roof down. During the solos A New Town is a
Connick turns out to be a quadruple threat, as evidenced in Hernandos Hideway, where an already raucous production number is taken to new heights with the inspired addition of a musical instrument (care to guess which one?) Ms. Lawrence is perfection as the drunk, lusty Gladys out for a night on the town with the factory hunk. Mr. Connick, never more comfortable than when tinkling the ivories, delivers the goods magnificentlyacting, dancing, singing and playing his trademark piano fantastically in what is hands down, the shows most original, show-stopping number.
Kelli OHara, as Babe Williams, the union leader turned romantic interest, is every bit his equal, a sassy, strong woman ahead of the times. Her sweet soprano is a wonderful complement to Connicks deep, smooth sounds. During the terrific There Once Was a Man number, the two generate the kind of sizzle and joyfulness that sends audiences into a frenzy. The Pajama Game may be mindless entertainment, but it is first-rate escapism. With its stunning physical production, superb ensemble, smoldering star and beguiling leading lady, it proves to be irresistible. The chemistry between Connick and OHara is undeniable and the sexy couple make the most of their numbers and together salvage what could have been a mediocre revival into the years surprise critical hit.
New York, April 10, 2006 - Nella Vera