“The Pajama Game” ran for more than a thousand performances on Broadway in the 1950s and this week’s production by the College Light Opera Company at the Highfield Theatre shows why. The music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross turn a Midwestern, assembly-line garment factory into a vibrant showcase for a romance that thrives on humor, exuberance, surprise and stubborn persistence.
Teddy Ladley plays Sid Sorokin, the new factory superintendent whose good looks make him the magnet of attention for the ladies in the shop. Carlyn Jade Barenholtz is Mae, the union’s Grievance Committee of one, who feigns romantic disinterest but her song “I’m Not at All in Love,” betrays her vulnerability. And Sid’s crooning into his Dictaphone, “Hey There,” becomes a wistful dialogue when he accompanies himself on the recording. Before long Babe and Sid are shouting their feelings in a rollicking cowboy-style duet, “There Once Was a Man.” Mr. Ladley and Ms. Barenholtz own the stage for several minutes with this vigorous close harmony number.
Trent Mosty is Hines, the clipboard and stopwatch efficiency expert. He is sweet on Gladys, the boss’s secretary, played by Samantha Altman. Hines thinks Gladys is too flirty and she finds his jealousy endlessly annoying. Sid’s secretary, Mabel (Erin Burtchaell), goads Hines by posing a series of outrageous compromising scenarios and Mr. Mosty goes through painful contortions to profess that he will “Never be Jealous Again,” and he and Ms. Burtchaell dance therapeutically to celebrate his resolve. Ms. Altman explodes with comic energy of her own when Gladys drinks too much on a night out at “Hernando’s Hideaway.” The cast does a magical staging of that song with a dark stage and flashlights.
The songs kept coming and the audience loved them. For “Steam Heat,” Gladys and “The Box Boys” do a soft shoe in tuxedos, black derby hats, and white gloves, a fingerprint of the original Bob Fosse choreography.
Brandon Roth plays Prez, the head of the union and persistent chaser of single women. Ian C. Weber is the head of the Sleep-Tite factory. It is his unwillingness to grant a 7½ cents raise that caused unrest but also inspired a great song that allowed the cast to sing about the long-term value of 7½ cents over 20 years’ time. The cast finale was one of those CLOC special moments: great voices with great music.
Music director Beth Burrier is also the piano player for the night.
“The Pajama Game” continues at the Highfield Theatre through Saturday, July 17, at 7:30 PM. For tickets, call the box office at 508-548-0668. “Trouble in Tahiti” opens on Tuesday, July 20.