Spotlight: The Pajama Game
When The Pajama Game opened as a musical in 1954 it was considered a bit of a head-scratcher, what with its plot about whether a group of workers in a pajama factory will win a seven-and-a-half-cent raise. But it was a surprise hit, largely on the back of irresistible tunes and playfully sharp lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross. In this Mixed Blood revival, Mark Valdez and Raúl Ramos adeptly blow the dust off the work by updating the story's factory workers as Latinos and by converting a good deal of the dialogue into Spanish. The story centers on a new manager, Sid (Jorge E. Maldonado), who tries to bridge the gap between workers and owner Hassler (William Gilness) without getting pink-slipped in the process. A tight, three-piece band handles the musical numbers with energy, and arranger/composer David B. Burk offers an impressive series of twists: "Steam Heat" with a salsa beat, "Hey There" as a samba. Since it wouldn't be a musical without a love interest, the hunky Sid comes across the aptly named Babe (Tiffany Ellen Solano, a recent finalist in TV's Grease: You're the One That I Want performance competition). Labor and management meet in the song "There Once Was a Man," with Maldonado and Solano trading ever-more-insane declarations of love to a ranchera beat. This is a light show, done in one act, and while the cast is solid, there are no real vocal stunners. Likewise, a couple of the larger ensemble numbers lack punch. (It doesn't help that the performance hall—the Sabathani Auditorium—feels like a high school stage.) In the end, though, the tone of this Pajama Game is winning, and the freshness of its contemporary conceit comes across as effortless. J.C. Cutler helps things along considerably with his nerdy suck-up Hines, who performs a daft knife-throwing exhibition at the company picnic while suave union head Prez (Ramos) remorselessly hits on every woman in sight. Good times, good times.
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