Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Seattle

The Pajama Game
5th Avenue Theatre
Review by David Edward Hughes

Also see David's review of Well


Joshua Davis and Billie Wildrick
Photo by Tracy Martin
The 1954 Tony winning Broadway musical The Pajama Game sat in a musty closet full of great 1940s through early '60s musicals for a long time. Wonderful Town, How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying, and On the Town were all revived in recent years by 5th Avenue Theatre, and directed by their Producing Artistic Director. Bill Berry and older musicals fit together like a horse and carriage, so no wonder The Pajama Game is such a boisterous good time show in his and choreographer Bob Richard's hands.

Doing this show now is also timely, as it deals with, however peripherally, the subjects of labor unions vs. management, a hot topic in the here and now, as much—no, probably more than it was when the show was first produced. With a book by George Abbott and Richard Bissell, based on Bissell's novel "7-1/2 Cents," the musical has laughs aplenty punctuated Richard Adler and Jerry Ross' infectious (if non-plot advancing) tunes about unrequited love ("Hey There"), love denied ("I'm Not at All in Love"), company picnics ("Once A Year Day"), local hot spots ("Hernando's Hideaway"), and yes even what a raise can do for the union workers ("7 1/2 Cents"). Add in a cast bursting with talent and, voila, pure joy for two and a half hours spent away from reading or watching what 45 last Twittered about.

Billie Wildrick effortlessly embodies and vivaciously vocalizes in the role of Katherine "Babe" Williams, the strong and sassy union rep who fights, flirts, and finally falls hard for the new management superintendent Sid Sorokin, played with just a dash of chauvinism and equal parts sex appeal and sympathy by Josh Davis, a golden-voiced, most welcome new stallion in the 5th's corral. Ms. Wildrick hits the ground running with vocal panache and robust energy, from "I'm Not at All in Love" through "7 1/2 Cents." Davis serves up a "Hey There" that honors that song's hit history, and pairs well with Wildrick in several fun duets and group numbers, best of all in the hillbilly tinged "There Once Was a Man."

Greg McCormick Allen charms his way through the role of time-study man Hines (though choreographer Richard might have thrown some tricky time-steps in for this tap dancer par excellence in "Think of the Time I Save") and Sarah Rose Davis as Hines's adorable dish of a girlfriend Gladys parlays some of the show's biggest giggles, and the lead vocal on "Hernando's Hideaway." Shaunyce Omar is a standout laugh-getter and wonderful partner to Allen in "I'll Never Be Jealous Again."

The "Steam Heat" number usually performed by Gladys is instead in the capable hands (and tap shoes) of one of Seattle's go-to Bob Fosse gals, Taryn Darr, teamed with featured dancers Davione Gordon and Ryan Patrick Kelly, and the trio definitely heat up the 5th Avenue stage. Kyle Robert Carter as lascivious factory worker Prez smoothly partners Darr in "Her IS" and spreads charm throughout the proceedings. David Pichette as the Pajama Factory owner is as hilarious as he is initially unrecognizable, and one wishes the always reliably funny Allen Galli, who plays Babe's Pop, had more than a glorified walk-on role.

Bob Richard's Fosse-flavored choreography makes every key number feel fresh and energetic, from the full-cast showpiece "Once a Year Day" to "Steam Heat" to "Hernando's Hideaway," and the ensemble looks sharp throughout. Bruce Monroe's sprightly new orchestrations are a major asset, and Joel Fram's orchestra plays them to perfection. Carol Wolfe Clay's scenic design is a model of dexterity, Rose Pederson's costumes look like vintage mid '50s artifacts, Robert J. Aguilar's lighting is grand throughout (especially in "Hernando's Hideaway"), and Ken Travis' sound design is crisp, clear, and all it should be.

The Pajama Game runs through March 5, 2017, at The 5th Avenue Theatre, 1308 5th Avenue, Seattle. For single tickets (starting at $29) and information, please visit www.5thavenue.org, call the Box Office at (206) 625-1900, or visit the Box Office at 1308 5th Avenue in downtown Seattle.


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