Monday, November 20, 2017

The Pajama Game at Arena Stage

In the note from the artistic director, there's a mention that they probably didn't think the show was sexist when it was first conceived.  This was my first experience of it, so I don't know if there were explicit changes made but for a classic musical there were a minimal amount of cringey moments. The story is about Sid who has moved into a new town where he can be a factory superintendent. He gets into a dispute with an employee, which brings in the grievance committee headed up Katherine who is called Babe.  He is immediately flirtatious.  Meanwhile the factory workers at the pajama factory are already grumbling because the other factory workers are all getting paid more, and the union head is trying to get them 7.5 more cents an hour. The president of the union is a philanderer who is married to someone we never meet, but does not let that stop him from chasing every female he sees.  The factory owner's secretary has access to the ledger, and she is also flirtatious and attractive which causes tension as she is dating the factory timekeeper who gets very jealous.  Babe and Sid do begin dating, her dad likes him a lot.  But things come to a head, when the union's various attempts - such as bad button sewing and work slowdowns - to make the factory owner agree to the raise, are met with threats instead. When a frustrated Babe jams a machine, Sid fires her, and well, things get messy.  
The Pajama Game was originally choreographed by Bob Fosse, and so there were some Fosse hat tips in the choreography. There were a couple of moments in the show I saw Friday that were either deliberate prop goofs or intentional and that fact that I had to wonder because they worked with the apple falling or the hat flying to far speaks well of the cast.  Sid in particular is a hard role, splitting the line between charming and slick, and he has a lot of songs.  Babe was delightfully spunky.  
While there's some power dynamics between the men in the show and the women in the show that never get careful examination, the idea that fighting for what you believe in and that being more important than your love life (even if things work out nicely for most of the cast) is certainly something that speaks to a modern audience. 
It was a lot of fun.