[REVIEW ROUNDUP] The Pajama Game

All those who participated in the crowdfunding scheme that made it possible for The Pajama Game to transfer from the Chichester Festival Theatre to the West End's Shaftesbury Theatre, will not be disappointed.

The Pajama Game, as reminded by one of the characters at the opening, is a commentary about “capital and labour.” But what the character doesn't say is that it's a story about capital and labour told in an array of dazzling song and dance numbers.

Set in 1950s America, Richard Eyre's delightful musical is an adaptation of Richard Bissell's novel 7½ Cents. Where workers of the Sleep-Tite Pajama Factory is demanding a seven-and-a-half cents increase in their wage.

And amidst a brewing strike, tough and feisty Grievance Committee representative, Babe Wlilliams (Joanna Riding) and the new shop superintendent, Sid Sorkin (Michael Xavier), find themselves falling in love.

Here's what the critics are saying about The Pajama Game at the Shaftesbury Theatre:

Sarah Hemming, Financial Times: The production seethes with energy: the whole workforce seems ready to burst a button – if they weren’t so busy dancing they might challenge more fundamentally their sweatshop conditions and crooked boss. Both Eyre’s direction and Stephen Mear’s witty, effervescent choreography draw on the great American musicals of the 1940s, but also hint that rock’n’roll is just around the corner. And while the factory churns out safely unerotic pyjamas, the atmosphere is steamy with lust and sexual frustration.

Christopher Hart, The Sunday Times: We are urged by one character at the beginning to remember that The Pajama Game is really about “capital and labour”, but when we have to be told this again at the end, we know it isn’t true. It’s about song and dance and flannelette pyjamas, and it’s all good, simple, 1950s-style fun.

Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard: Richard Eyre's spirited revival of this Fifties musical combines fluent stylishness with an easy, frisky sense of fun.

Eyre’s cast proves wonderfully buoyant. The engaging Michael Xavier brings a velvety ardour to Sid, while Joanna Riding’s Babe has a mix of brisk efficiency and fiery conviction.

Michael Billington, The Guardian: Refreshing as it is to find a musical in which passion collides with politics, I notice how cannily the show harks back to the past. The fractiousness of the lovers echoes Annie Get Your Gun and, when the workers go on a picnic, I was reminded of the box social in Oklahoma! and the clambake in Carousel. It adds, however, rather than detracts from the pleasure to find an original theme reinforced by a sense of tradition. What really counts in this revival is the brilliance of Stephen Mear's choreography in matching the mood of the songs by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross.

Neil Norman, Express: If the setting appears downbeat - a nightwear garment factory in the American midwest - the plot is a classic Broadway love-by-trial romance. Yet within the comfortingly predictable structure of George Abbott and Richard Bissell’s book there are plenty of surprises.

From the rousing opening in which the sewing machines and steam presses are wheeled on for the opening number, the action rarely stops swinging. Stephen Mear’s choreography pays tribute to Bob Fosse’s original while adding grace notes of his own.

Charles Spencer, Daily Telegraph: Richard Eyre's joyful production feels like "one of the most zingingly entertaining tune-and-toe shows you have ever seen. This effervescent version marvellously captures the show's constantly bubbling wit with dazzlingly inventive choreography.

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