Book by George Abbott and Richard Bissell
Music & Lyrics by Richard Adler & Jerry Ross
adapted from the novel 7 ½ cents, by Richard Bissell

INFO:

Opened at the St. James Theatre    May 13, 1954    1,063 performances
Original Director: George Abbott, Jerome Robbins
Original Choreographer: Bob Fosse
Original Producer: Harold Prince, Frederick
Original Leads: Sid: John Raitt    Babe: Janis Paige
Cast Size: Male: 4    Female: 3    Ensemble: At least 12, more if possible.    Total Cast Size: 20 +
Orchestra: 20  (It could be played with piano/bass/percussion, and maybe a keyboard, it won’t lose much.)
Published Script: None.
Production Rights: MTI (Music Theater International)
Recordings: The original Broadway is okay. The later version with Harry Connick, Jr. is actually better and more thorough.
Film: 1957, Doris Day, much of the original cast. Pretty good record of the show.
Other shows by the authors: Damn Yankees
Awards: The original production won three Tonys, including Best Musical, and Best Choreography (Fosse). The 2006 version won the Tony for Best Revival of a Musical.

WHO SHOULD DO THIS SHOW:

A fine show for a group with a lot of young adult performers, such as a college or university. Good for more adult audiences, such as one might find in Vegas or NYC. A fun show for a loose and relaxed audience as one might find in Dinner Theater environs. Fine for Stock companies, and professional companies. It does seem that a lot of High Schools do this show today, especially on the East Coast. Not sure why – it is morally questionable material for a young cast.

Be Warned:

Pajamas have other uses than as comfortable sleep wear, as the final entrance of the two romantic leads – he in a PJ bottom, her in a PJ top, and nothing else… quickly and undeniably proves. This show is largely about sex, and that sex is happening outside of marriage. If your audience can’t handle this sort of bedtime activity being firmly implied, don’t do this show. It’s the central action in the show, essentially, in both the central and the secondary plot, it cannot be directed around. Not for kids, or High Schools.

THE STORY: (This outline is from the MTI catalog, slightly modified. Based on the original production, rather than the 2006 Revival, which added new numbers.)

ACT ONE: The curtain rises on the Sleep-Tite Pajama Factory in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Hines, the company’s Time Study man, introduces the audience to the story (“The Pajama Game”). He reveals a factory shop floor, where there is a double row of sewing machines. Hines hurries the seamstresses to finish their work. Prez, the Union President, enters and flirts with two of the female workers. Joe, a factory worker, asks Prez about the status of the union’s demand for a seven and a half cent raise. If they do not get the raise, the workers will strike.

Old Man Hasler, the head of the company, enters accusing one of the seamstresses of wasting material and yelling at another to turn off the lights. Hasler’s secretary, Gladys, enters and Hines confesses to the audience that he is in love with her. Hasler demands that Gladys write a letter to the Board of Directors stating that the raise is unnecessary. The workers complain about Hines, the speed of the production line and their need for the raise (“Racing With The Clock”); they also discuss the attractive new superintendent, Sid Sorokin.

Sid enters with some helpers and begins to fix a machine. Rather than helping, the men agitate Sid and he pushes one of them. The helper claims he’s been injured and goes to file a complaint with the Grievance Committee. Sid laments the difficulty of having moved to a new town for his job, but he is determined to make the best of it, even when Hasler enters and reprimands him (“A New Town Is A Blue Town”).

The Grievance Committee – Babe Williams, Brenda and Mae – enters. Babe questions Sid about the pushing incident, while he flirts with her. Hines tells Sid that Hasler wants to see him in his office. The break ends and the women re-enter, complaining again about the pace of the work (“Racing With The Clock reprise”). While Joe complains to Prez about the slow progress of the raise negotiations, Babe tells the other women she knows the pushed worker wasn’t hurt. The women tease Babe about how she seemed to notice how attractive Sid is. She denies this, saying he is really not her type (“I’m Not At All In Love”).

Gladys enters Sid’s office; Mabel, Sid’s secretary, sits at her desk. Poopsie enters selling tickets to the annual company picnic. Hines enters and Poopsie asks him if he is planning to do his knife-throwing act at the picnic. After Poopsie leaves, Gladys puts a note on Sid’s desk; Hines again accuses her of flirting with Sid. They get into another argument, which ends when Gladys again storms out. Mabel scolds Hines about his jealousy. When he promises he won’t be jealous again, Mabel makes up different provocative scenarios involving Gladys and other men, to see if he can control his jealousy (“I’ll Never Be Jealous Again”).

Hasler enters complaining about the workers. He yells at Gladys when he sees that the company ledger book is out on her desk; it is supposed to be locked away. Elsewhere, Sid asks Mabel questions about Babe. Mabel tells him she was engaged to be married once. Sid calls Prez and asks him to send the Grievance Committee – Babe – up to his office. Mabel leaves and Sid asks Babe out on a date. Babe refuses him; he represents management and she represents labor. Sid is disappointed, both with her response and with himself for falling for her (“Hey There”).

Everyone enters for the company picnic. Prez begins flirting with Gladys, telling her she is beautiful and his wife doesn’t understand him, but she rejects him (“Her Is”). The workers then sing the company song (“Sleep-Tite”). Prez introduces Hasler, who speaks about the dangers of rising production costs. Sid flirts with Babe as some of the couples participate in the three-legged race. Hines, who has been drinking, begins his knife-throwing act; Gladys scolds him as he throws. Hines calls for a volunteer to stand with an apple while Hines throws his knives at it. Babe gladly volunteers. Sid, nervous about Babe, stops the exhibition. Babe agrees to take a walk with him. Sid and the company revel in how much they are enjoying the picnic (“Once-A-Year-Day”). As the picnic begins to wind down, Prez flirts with Mae, who accepts his advances (“Her Is reprise “).

Sid visits Babe and her father, Pop, at their house. When Pop leaves for his railroad job, he gives Sid his stamp collection to examine. Babe offers to make them an omelet. Sid complains Babe is using small talk to avoid him, which she denies (“Small Talk”). They kiss. Babe warns Sid that the issue of the raise will come between them, but he disagrees because he loves her and she loves him.

Later, Prez tells the workers that Hasler has called a meeting with the union leaders for the next day. Babe enters and tells them because she has a date with Sid, she won’t be joining them after work. Sid enters and they reaffirm their love (“There Once Was A Man”).

Hasler refuses to give the workers the raise. Prez calls for a production slowdown, and all the women at the machines begin working in slow motion. Hines enters and demands they speed up (“Racing With The Clock reprise”). When Babe causes a breakdown in the entire production line, Sid fires her and tells himself to forget her (“Hey There reprise”).

ACT TWO: Prez leads a union meeting. At the end of his speech, Gladys and two male assistants provide the evening’s song-and-dance entertainment (“Steam Heat”).

Later, Prez and a group of workers hold a meeting in Babe’s kitchen to discuss ways of forcing Hasler to give in to their demands. Pop comes home as the meeting is breaking up. He tells Babe he ran into Sid – whom she has not seen since her firing – at the corner tavern and has invited him to come over. When Sid arrives, he tells her he loves her, and they should continue going out together despite the fact they’re on opposite sides of the wage dispute. She disagrees with him and goes to her bedroom, where she concedes to herself that she does love Sid, but is confused about what to do.

Back at the factory, Hines explains to the women in the factory how much the slowdown upsets him because, as a Time Study man, living his life by the clock is very important to him (“Think Of The Time I Save”). We shift to Sid’s office. He is on the phone while Mabel reads outrageous tabloid headlines. Hasler enters and reiterates that he will not give in to the workers’ demands. Max, one of Sleep-Tite’s regional salesmen, enters; he shows them that the pajama pants are defective. Sid realizes there are not enough stitches in the waistbands; Hasler accuses the workers of sabotage. After reminding Gladys of the Board of Directors’ meeting set for the next day, Hasler gives her a new notation for the ledger book. When Hasler exits, Sid tries to convince Gladys to let him have the key to the book by flirting with her. She accepts his offer and tells him she knows the perfect place for a date – a secret club that can only be entered after three knocks on the door followed by a special message (“Hernando’s Hideaway”).

Prez and Babe enter Hernando’s Hideaway as Sid and Gladys have a drink. Babe’s view of Sid is blocked by other customers, but he sees her as he and Gladys get up to dance. He sits down very quickly. Gladys, who hasn’t seen Babe, tries to entice Sid to the dance floor by loaning him the ledger book key for the evening. When Babe sees them, she comes to their table and tells them to watch out for Hines, who is in another jealous rage. Hines enters drunk, brandishing his knives. He confronts Gladys, who walks out angrily after telling him she’s glad she never married him. Hines plops into a chair and imagines what married life with Gladys would be like. He imagines Gladys with a series of ever changing suitors that she plays around with while he goes off to work (“The Jealousy Ballet”). In his imagination, Mabel appears in an angel outfit to remind Hines of his earlier vow to trust Gladys, but he is still jealous of the imaginary men.

The next morning, Charley tells Sid that the union committee is there to see him before their big union rally, which is scheduled for that same day. Sid, who has been reading the ledger book all night, tells Charley to send them in; he calls Hasler and asks him to come to his office. Sid tells the committee he thinks he has found a solution to the wage dispute. Prez tells Sid the workers are ready to strike if an agreement isn’t reached. Sid asks to speak to Babe. He tries to make up with her, but she again refuses him because of the job dispute; she does, however, agree to meet him after the union rally. She exits.

Gladys enters to warn Sid that Hines is looking for him. Hines appears at the door, aims his knife and then disappears before Sid or Gladys sees him. As soon as Gladys tells Sid she heard something, a knife hits the wall near Sid’s head. They duck as more knives fly through the air. Hasler enters and a knife just misses him; he is convinced Chicago gangsters are after him. As they continue to duck from the knives, the union rally begins.

Sid exits with a window opener in his hand and soon enters with Hines, who now has a bruise from the window opener on his forehead. Hines tells them he was only trying to scare Sid; Gladys exits with Hines to bandage his head. Sid threatens to go to the Board of Directors’ meeting to tell them Hasler has been falsifying the ledger book: he has discovered Hasler has already added the cost of the raise to the production costs, but hasn’t given it to the workers. He will also reveal to the Board that the slowdown from the dispute has already lost the company customers.

At the union rally, Brenda tells Prez and some of the workers that she saw Hasler going into Sid’s office. When she asks if they will win if they strike, Prez tells her they will; he and Babe explain to all the workers how much the raise adds up to over 5, 10 and 20 years (“7 1/2 And A Half Cents”).

Sid enters and tells them Hasler will give in to the seven and a half cent raise if they agree to not ask for the raise retroactively. Babe hugs and kisses Sid, and they tell each other how much they love each other (“There Once Was a Man reprise”). Hines tells everyone that Hasler and the union are hosting a party at the most exclusive club in town.

Back at Hernando’s Hideaway, Max introduces the ‘Sleep-Tite Pajama Parade,’ which includes Mabel, Mae and Prez modeling pajamas. Hines and Gladys appear in pajamas. Hines reveals that he now trusts Gladys. As she tries to move toward two male dancers, Hines pulls her back with a chain. Sid and Babe enter; she is in pajama tops, he in pajama bottoms. They explain that married life is fun. The entire ensemble then expresses their happiness about working together in the pajama factory (“The Pajama Game reprise”).

THE SONGS:

“Racing With The Clock”, “A New Town Is A Blue Town”, “I’m Not At All In Love”, “I’ll Never Be Jealous Again”, “Hey There”, “Sleep Tite”, “Her Is”, “Once A Year Day”, “Small Talk”, “There Once Was A Man”, “Steam Heat”, “Think Of The Time I Save”, “Hernando’s Hideaway”, “7 ½ Cents”

Hits include “Hey There”, “Steam Heat”, “Hernando’s Hideaway”

MY OPINIONS:

As always, feel free to ignore or skip my opinions and rating. But if your P.J.s come up a few stitches short and leave you exposed to the cruel, cold breezes of theatrical reality, so be it.

The Pajama Game has a fine, tuneful score, lots of energy, an okay story and fair (just passable) book with an interesting central idea (management vs. labor, representatives of each falling in love), and attractive people running around in pajamas. While all of this is good, and the show is certainly a better-than-average one, I’ve always looked at this show as the writer’s warm up for the show to follow, Damn Yankees, which I consider a considerably finer Musical Comedy. The shame of it is that we can only wonder what Damn Yankees might have been a warm-up for, as Jerry Ross died at age 29, in 1955. I think there is little doubt that Adler and Ross working together would have given us many fine Musical Comedies, and perhaps extended the life of that beloved form.

Pajama Game is a fun, fine Musical Comedy, even if it is a bit flat in the comedy department. It’s score features songs that are fresh and alive, though I personally find that placing two numbers that share a sort of country feel to them, in the middle of what is an Iowa tale with, curiously, a big city morality, questionable and even off-putting. By this, I refer to “Once A Year Day”, and “There Once Was A Man”, both large production numbers that, in spite of their obvious energy, always feel contrived and a bit of a snooze to me. Both these numbers occupy slots late in Act I, which does not help the show dig into the audience’s emotions as that act ends.

The same can not be said of their two other high-energy production numbers, “Steam Heat”, and “Hernando’s Hideaway”, both saved for Act II, both fantastic expressions of joy, sex and pleasure, and both exactly the sort of number Bob Fosse knew exactly what to do with. Unfortunately, “7 ½ Cents” is another fairly mediocre upbeat ensemble piece, a march that’s musically more fun than it is lyrically.

I think there are other songs in this score that are not as wonderful as I would like, including “I’m Not At All In Love”, “”I’ll Never Be Jealous Again”, and “Think Of The Time I Save”. These are not “bad” numbers, they are just not strong enough, overall, to help the show much. There are a few laughs in each of these songs, which makes them a sight better than many relatively weak numbers in other shows – but I don’t love these songs like I do the stronger pieces. I’ve always seen this score as a mixed bag, with some truly excellent numbers carrying the day. The disappointing summation is that this show is almost never quite as clever as the writers thought it was, I suspect, with the exception of the stronger numbers.

But “Hey There” has always been one of my favorite ballads. And I like “Small Talk” a lot.

By the way, it is commonly understood that the great Frank Loesser, who brought Adler and Ross together to write this, their first show, as well as publishing their scores, also authored at least two of the songs in this score, “A New Town Is A Blue Town”, and “There Once Was A Man”, as well as coming up with the musical idea for “Hey There” by suggesting the young composers take a piece of Mozart’s, the Sonata in C (K. 545) and slowing it down. And so they did, as you may verify by closely listening to the first few bars of each piece. Many show tunes and popular songs have been adapted from classical pieces, this was a usual practice for a long time. But none of them use a tape recorder to create a counterpoint, perhaps the cleverest turn in the score of Pajama Game.

MY RATING: * (A better-than-average and interesting show, right for many groups.)

PRODUCTION CONCERNS AND IDEAS:

DIFFICULTY OF MUSIC:

The score is aggressive 1950s Musical Comedy, using many of the forms popular at that time, such as tangos, waltzes, and marches. It requires a Musical Director who understands the period in Broadway music, and knows how to play it, teach it, and work with it. It also requires a legit baritone lead, very typical of the period, one with a nearly operatic instrument.

Sid – Baritone, big belt, good high notes, controlled vibrato.

Babe – Mezzo, good belt, doesn’t require too large a range.

Hines – Comic baritone, character-driven voice. Good with lyrics that go by with some speed.

Gladys – Mezzo.

Prez – Tenor, character-driven voice.

Old Man Hassler – Non-Singing.

Mabel – Alto, nice supported mid-range. Some high notes.

Mae – Non-Singing.

Pop- Non-Singing.

Poopsie – Non-Singing.

Ensemble – Should all belt, be decent with harmonies, but dance will be as if not more important as their vocal abilities.

DIFFICULTY OF DANCE, CHOREOGRAPHIC CONCERNS:

The involvement of Fosse and Robbins should tell you that this is a dance show.  You are going to want a dance-trained ensemble, modern and theater styles.  Theyr’e going to be busy, and so will your choreographer, who will be staging (most likely) at least “Racing With The Clock”, “I’m Not At All In Love”, “I’ll Never Be Jealous Again”, “Sleep Tite”, “Her Is”, “Once A Year Day”, “There Once Was A Man”, “Steam Heat”, “Think Of The Time I Save”, “Hernando’s Hideaway”, and “7 ½ Cents”.

“Racing With The Clock” is about factory production, and all the movement should focus on what happens in a P.J. factory.  It should be regimented, and repetitive, able to be sped up ridiculously, and slowed down ridiculously.  And it should be overly-complex for the given situation, a fun and intertwined puzzle of motion between numerous “employees” each performing a specialized function on the line, resulting in brightly-colored and multi-patterned pajamas.  The audience should be exhilarated by the intricacies of the motion and how each person works as a part of the “machine.”  And perhaps, a clock and a counter are visible, the clock showing time left in the day, the counter, the number of pajamas completed.

“I’m Not At All In Love” is a big waltz sung by a woman who refuses to accept that she feels anything, even as the relentlessly grand and romantic waltz drives her real passion out into the open.  The other women dancing around her are blissfully aware of her romantic inclinations, and offer a comment in motion, a picture of male-female love that denies every word she sings.  You could have Babe, the woman at the center of the song, nearly motionless other than to deny the romantic sentiments so clearly expressed by the others.  This number is not romantic, it’s comic.  Or at least, you’d better hope that it’s comic.

“I’ll Never Be Jealous Again” is a comic duet.  A mature man does everything in his power to overcome his natural tendency to be jealous of the highly-flirtatious secretary who has caught his eyes, while a matronly, good-hearted elder statesman of a secretary tries to helpfully guide him to a more mature acceptance of the situation.  The number is driven by character humor, not gags or schtick. You’ll need your Choreographer to work closely with the Director to figure out where the humor in the characters lies.  Spot specific jokes (character-based) in specific parts of the number, and aim for those in ways that physicalize the man’s growing aggravation with himself.  Of course, his aggravation should be directed at the flirtatious secretary who plays everyone, and the matronly secretary who, in the end, is playing on the man’s frustration as well, and taking some odd pleasure in the exercise.

The same is true of “Her Is”, another comic duet where a horn-dog of a union leader does everything in his power to pick up on a secretary.  The “humor” in this number is also character-driven.  (I personally find this number pretty distasteful, and not terribly funny.  I don’t know which is worse.  Probably that it’s just not that funny.)  Seems as if Prez, the guy, dances around like Cupid in heat, while the girl, knowing this guy all-too well, leads him down the primrose path just to dump him in the end.  It is an essay in gleefully overt seduction ending in rejection, and is every bit as frustrating as it sounds.  Make it funny.  Somehow.  The way she denies him should force him to deflate, and then get himself revved up again, perhaps repeatedly.

“Once A Year Day” is a celebration of that old (and pretty-much dead) institution, the company picnic.  Everyone is outdoors, free, in the trees and open air.  A sense of freedom, of uninhibited expression of joy and exercise, should prevail.  And that freedom, in this case, expands to the opportunity to express and begin various love affairs.  The number should be athletic in its staging, even aerobic.  It is a full-company number, essentially, and the stage should rumble with energy, once pent-up and now, briefly, released, to the point perhaps of the comic, the ridiculous.   After all, it’s a rambunctious, over-the-top song about, um, a picnic.  Have some fun with this fact.  Perhaps at the end, when everyone’s madness ends, they realize how far they’ve gone and embarrassed, exit one by one from some mass intertwined pose.  Just a thought.

“There Once Was A Man” is a duet using two characters.  But the energy established in the last number can’t drop out.  Instead, it needs to narrow and focus on Sid and Babe, as exuberant in their own way as everyone was at the picnic.  Their love is now open and acknowledged.   This number is a celebration of the discovery that the one  we love is wonderful.  That’s a cool reason to sing a song!  (I kind of wish it was a different song than this upbeat country knock-off, though.)  It is based on hyperbole in the lyric, and your movement needs to echo the lyrical stories being coined as the number rockets by.  And I imagine, their love being so new and all, that they can hardly take their hands off each other, and now, over to you.

I’ve suggested an approach for “Steam Heat” in the lighting notes, below.  Take a look.  The key to this number is that the original choreography is quite famous.  (See the film.)  And I love what Fosse did, of course!  But I think it’s time to reinvent the number somewhat for a modern audience.  The references to “steam” and “heat” all relate to a factory life, to machinery in motion and creating heat.  And this plays out as a metaphor to physical heat and love.  But it is the factory aspect that instructs the choreography, the love element that provides it a human undertow, mostly unseen, but felt.

“Think Of The Time I Save” is another character-driven piece, involving humorless, old Hinsey, again, a man completely out of touch with human needs and lacking the understanding that would inform him the others are lampooning him even as they play along.  Which, by the way, I find just a little cruel, lending this number a rough road toward comedy.  If instead you can find a way to have them “help” him by showing him the error of conducting a life as a time-management exercise, by somehow letting him in on the life he’s missing, that might make the number more humane.  Not funnier, though.  At best, if you can get the audience to smile at the actor and his determination to control the universe around him even as it laughs behind his back, then you’ll have done well.  Work again with the Director to shape this number toward perhaps a smile, a small but earned laugh, preferably not entirely at Hines’ expense.

“Hernando’s Hideaway” is the big number.  It is a fun, fantastic romp.  All Latin tango and other Latin forms jumbled together in movement, as these people are factory workers executing their ideas of rhumbas and what-have-yous, with roses or candles in their teeth.  They pass in and out of shadows, and it all should play out as a vast, well-staged lampoon of romantic dance from south of the border.  Couples can pair up, only to oddly redistribute in the darkness in ways even they do not expect, men with men, women with women, men with roasted chickens, women with chairs, people tangoing through with the completely unexpected object, the gorilla from your last production of Cabaret, perhaps.  Let your imagination run riot, this is the big 11:00 number, wake the audience up for the end of the show.

“7 1/2 Cents” is a big march, a Sousa-like affair, rousing and patriotic, the happy ending the American labor force presumably deserves.  Keep it focused on Babe as much as possible, but fill the stage with pom-poms and whistles, and anything you’ve not returned to the prop shop from The Music Man.  It is a celebration of a long battle won, and a dream for the future bound only by the limits of this, um, rather paltry raise, multiplied to gargantuan numbers over the span of decades.  Have fun!

CASTING CONCERNS:

Sid – Late 20s-early 40s, a man looking for another shot at life and at success. Determined, adult, realistic, a hard-worker. Handsome, virile, intense, pretty bright. A man who has made more of his life than perhaps his natural gifts would allow, out of sheer grit. He’s got a temper, and is a big enough man to hurt someone. Cast for voice, type, acting, some movement.

Babe – Mid 20s-30s. Tough, smart, vivacious, determined, kind of sexy. A woman with an edge and a temper, which may explain why she’s still single – the right man would need to be able to stick it through. Attractive, opinionated. Cast for type, acting, voice, some movement.

Hines – A mature man, 40s-50s. A man of narrow interests and no life to speak of outside of his work – a condition he’d like to alter. “Humorless”, and intended to be comic in his humorless-ness. Originally Eddie Foy, Jr., an old Vaudevillian. Cast for acting, type, voice, some movement.

Gladys – Mid 20s-30s, sexy, driven by her needs and interests from the waist-down. Fickle, employed for her obvious assets, none-too-bright. Cast for type, acting, voice, movement. Must dance.

Prez – Mid 30s-50s. A bit of a rat, over the labor force, an angry, self-important man with little backbone, little integrity. Uses his position to come on to women in ways that would land him in jail today, most likely. A predator. Cast for acting, type, voice, some movement.

Old Man Hassler – Mid 40s-60s, the boss. Pressures all around him, never satisfied, a humorless machine of a man – and all the while, skimming money meant for his employees. Dishonest, criminal, hiding behind a veneer of respectability and efficiency. Cast for acting, type.

Mabel – The matron of the business, the exec secretary. Usually a large woman, efficient, imposing, but concerned in her own way with others. No-nonsense, a romantic at heart. A character role for a mature actress, 40s-60s. Cast for acting, type, voice, a little movement.

Mae – 20s-40s. Part of the Grievance Committee. Cast for acting, type, voice, dance.

Pop- Babe’s father, 50s-60s, a railroad man still employed, probably will work to the day he dies. Cast for type, acting.

Poopsie – A female, 20s-30s. Cast for acting, type, voice, dance.

Ensemble – MUST dance, sing with a belt, some high notes, types found in a Midwest town working in a factory.

SETS:

Act I – The factory floor, Sid’s office, a park for the company picnic, Babe’s living room, the factory floor. Act II – Union meeting hall, Sid’s office, Hernando’s Hideaway, Sid’s office, Union rally, Hernando’s Hideaway again. That’s six locations, and if you’re going to build a complete set for each one, you’re in for a lot of expense and work.

The factory floor has to display sewing machines, and yet be open for dance. It should feel like a factory, lived-in, a bit smokey and dirty, crowded, yet it can’t be crowded. It should occupy the back of the stage, leaving the front open for dance, and may consist of some exposed pipes and brick walls at the back and to the sides and overhead.

Sid’s office, where a lot of action takes place, needs a desk, a dictation machine, a phone. It could be a part of the factory set, established to one side and a bit downstage, perhaps separated by a partial, suggested wall with a door in it that can close.

Drop a “park” mid-stage in front of the factory/Sid set, roll on a tree or two, maybe a bush, or drop them at the same time you lower the backdrop. Could bring on a few benches, too.

Behind the park set, midway between the factory and park sets, drop and set up Babe’s house. It can be a few walls, a few homey pieces of art work, a flower bed, a door, a couch, a dining table with a few chairs. You’ll need to pull all of this quickly out for the last scene in Act I, on the factory floor again.

Act II, drop a simple backdrop for the union hall, with a logo on a false wall, and perhaps a small stage that is set during Intermission and rolled off at the end of the scene. This will give the choreographer a level to work with for “Steam Heat”.

Pull the union hall up and out to reveal the factory and Sid’s office. Then, go to a dark stage, and lower a neon sign from the rafters, hot red, “Hernando’s Hideaway.” It’s a dark, steamy place. In the dark, establish candles (supposedly on tables), that are instead carried by dancers, perhaps in their teeth like roses. Play with it, the mood should be that of an aggressive and over-the-top dark, sexy Latin club. But leave the floor pretty open for the huge number. Establish the location with the neon drop and a few such touches.

Pull the club to reveal the factory and Sid’s office again. You could hold the union rally in the factory, you’ll be set up for it. That will create pressure on both sides of the “fight”, sharing the space. Then, go dark and lower the neon for “Hernando’s Hideaway” for the last scene.

This isn’t a “unit set” kind of show. You’ll be building a few walls, drops, maybe cut-aways to establish the locations. If you can keep the factory floor and Sid’s office as stationary and drop everything in front of it, you’ll save yourself what might easily become your biggest headache. This requires a somewhat deep stage, however. It could also be argues that placing so much action toward the back of a large stage is bad stagecraft. The show is actually somewhat of a problem in this regard.

The show is a period piece. No one in today’s world would sing about a 7 ½ cent raise! (You might change it to “Seven and a half bucks…”) Not without a great deal of irony. I think this fact precludes going “modern” in your sets, with projections on a screen, say, and one unit use of the main part of the stage. It’s going to be a period piece. That means the sets need to have that 1950s feel to them. Conservative, immobile, and under-designed. Your color palate for your sets, overall, may be quite bland. Brick and dark walls, that sort of thing. Babe’s house could be small, but clean, a breath of white walls and freshness. The park should feel like freedom after time in the factory, for both the characters and the audience.

COSTUMES:

Well, you’d best come up with some diverse, cute pajamas! Especially for what could turn into an all-too-revealing ending to the show.

Sid is a working man in the 50s, and the uniform was essentially black slacks and shoes, a white shirt, a tie, perhaps a dress or suit jacket. Babe is a working girl at that time, probably wearing a dress, though not necessarily – she’s a bit of a rebel and could go to a working-girl’s edition of the Kate Hepburn pants and blouse look.

Sexy secretary’s had their own uniform back then, too, that consisted of a generally tight dress that showed off important secretarial assets. These dresses could provide some color in what is a fairly monochromatic show.

Factory workers would hardly be wearing their Sunday bests to work. However, they could dress up a bit for the rally. And at Hernando’s Hideaway, the sexiest and brightest and most over-the-top stuff comes out of the closet. This scene, played in isolated light, should explode with visual energy. Masks, overly-Latin costume flourishes including billowing sleeves, black pumps.

A lot of your costuming should be found in closets, and at thrift stores. But remember that this cast is going to do a fair amount of dance, and the costuming must support that fact.

PROPS:

Phones, answering machines, a dictation machine, sewing machines – a machine-heavy environment, and the machines have to feel period-correct. Hine’s paperwork and a clipboard, he is a “time study” man. Knives to be thrown (and this will probably require some “special effects”, the old magic trick where a man looks like he’s thrown a knife and it “appears” sticking from a wall next to a person’s head.) There are likely to be a fair number of props, some of them difficult. Work closely with your Director and get an early start.

LIGHTING:

A tough show for the Lighting Designer! The feel of everything is dark, dank, factory for the most part. And yet, big Musical Comedy numbers need to take place in this environment. You’ll be doing a lot of isolated lighting to pick up duets and solos, you may want follow spots for this show. And if you can get that overhead, cold, large-lamp factory lighting feel, do it when scenes are on the factory floor. Light sources in a factory are not vague “from anywhere” light – there would not be many real windows.

You can open up the lighting each time we move from the factory. The park, Babe’s house, the union hall (which can have it’s own “stage” lighting for “Steam Heat”), can all pop a bit, allowing the show to brighten up.

“Steam Heat” needs to be lit as if the lights in a hall were dimmed, and amateurs were wielding two spot lights. Mistakes should be (intentionally) made. It should be a part of the fun, even a part of the choreography as the dancers move quickly into illusive light. (Coordinate with the choreographer, obviously.)

“Hernando’s Hideaway” is all isolation lighting, candle light (perhaps only that…), and darkness. The shadows and dark will be as important to the fun of this number as the lights.

All in all, a busy show for a Lighting Designer to get right.

MAKE-UP:

For the most part, keep the make-up unobtrusive. However, it’s the mid-50s, and secretaries were often overtly made-up. You can have some fun with that.

KEY PERSONNEL (The ones you MUST get right.):

Director, Musical Director, Choreographer, Set Designer, Lighting Designer, Costume Designer, Sid, Babe.

MY THOUGHTS:
Pajama Game is a fun, silly show. It’s romance degenerates quickly into sexual foreplay, it just isn’t all that romantic. This fact makes me wonder a bit at all the High Schools tackling this show. Ah, well, times change. The show sports some effective hit songs. But the leading roles are, all of them, a bit unsavory, a bit chewy and untasty. They tend to be humorless as a bunch, when compared to better Musicals.

Don’t get me wrong, Pajama Game is an okay show, better than many Musicals. It is not drowning in production values, that’s a good thing, too. Sets, costumes are both confrontable. The music is not very hard to work with. The dance, on the other hand, should be scintillating. The dance provides this show much of its energy. And this show has had quite a life, with several Broadway revivals. It is popular.