Sterling’s Old Fashioned Fourth of July celebration will include an “old-fashioned” musical comedy classic this year as the Sterling Community Theatre Troupe presents the 60 year old classic American musical “The Pajama Game.” Hailed as “musical comedy heaven,” the show will be staged at 8 p.m. next Thursday and Friday, July 2 and 3, and at 3 p.m. Sunday, July 5, in the Sterling High School Theatre.
“The Pajama Game “centers on a strike by workers in an Iowa pajama factory who are demanding a seven-and-a-half cent raise. Against this background, there are the parallel love stories between Babe, the grievance committee head, played in the Sterling production by Piper Harding and Sid, the new factory supervisor, played by Matt Hastings. The other couple is Hines, the jealous factory time-keeper and his irrepressible girlfriend, the flirtatious Gladys Hotchkiss, played by Larry and Amy Brownlee. The show is full of vibrant characters and funny situations and energetic dance and has proven popular with audiences around the world for over 60 years.
“The Pajama Game” won the Best Musical Tony Award in ‘55, with additional prizes going to supporting actress Carol Haney and choreographer Bob Fosse. The Broadway show was such a hit that Hollywood made a film version only two years later in 1957 with the entire Broadway cast and creative crew intact with the exception of the female lead which went to Hollywood film star Doris Day. The 2006 Broadway revival starring popular singer Harry Connick, Jr. won the Tony for Best Musical Revival.
“The show explodes with a sense of fun and old-fashioned theatricality right from the beginning,” says director Dennis Dutton. “It’s filled with colorful characters, great music, energetic dances plus lots of comedy and romance – everything audiences love. It entertains in a way only the popular old musicals can.”
“The Pajama Game” marked the beginning of long and much-admired careers for three legendary musical comedy icons: Harold Prince as producer, Bob Fosse as choreographer, and Jerome Robbins as director. The show also established the Broadway careers of songwriters Richard Adler and Jerry Ross.
Many of the great songs from the show have gone on to become standards in American music such as the ballad, “Hey There,” the novelty tune “Hernando’s Hideaway” and the iconic showtune “Steam Heat.”
Musical comedy historian Ken Mendalbaum has heralded “Pajama Game” as “overflowing with snappy, pop tunes which exist mostly as excuse for their sheer entertainment value. The show is Broadway at its best. For its time, it was state-of-the-art. In its construction and buoyancy, it still is. It is musical comedy heaven.”
One of the most famous dance numbers from all of musical comedy history is found in “Pajama Game” – “Steam Heat.” Done with three dancers – one female and two male, the number includes Fosse’s patented moves, props, and idiosyncrasies such as bowler hats, angular knees, hunched shoulders, and jazz hands. For the Sterling production Kacie Hastings choreographed the iconic number. “It has been a challenge to keep the flavor and look of Fosse’s moves but to make them our own. I’d say 80% of what we’re doing is original to us but keeps that Fosse style in mind.”
The Sterling production features a cast of 24. Tickets for “The Pajama Game” are $8 for adults and $5 for students and will be available at the door before each performance.