Director Steven Glaudini and his talented cast do everything right in Musical Theatre
West’s terrific new production of the 1953 Broadway smash The Pajama Game. The
recent Broadway revival with Harry Connick, Jr. sparked interest in this tuneful 50s
classic, and MTW’s production makes it clear why the show remains as fresh as ever in

Broadway’s Darcie Roberts radiates charisma in the role of Sleep-Tite Pajama Factory’s
grievance committee chairman Babe Williams, a role created by Janis Paige but
probably best known as one of Doris Day’s most famous creations. Leggy and
statuesque with a voice like honey and star quality coming from every pore, Roberts
couldn’t be better.  And just like Sid Sorokin, whose first song is “A New Town is a Blue
Town,” tall handsome Paul Dean is the new man in town. Recently arrived in Long
Beach, Dean has the voice of a crooner and enough charm to woo a stunner like
Roberts. Roberts and Deans’ duets (the seductive “Small Talk,” the rambunctious
“There Once Was A Man,” and the heartstring-tugging “Hey There (reprise)/When You
Win, You Lose”) are all show-stoppers.

MTW’s Pajama Game also marks the more than welcome return to the stage of award
winning director par excellence Nick DeGruccio. A local acting treasure during his
years at the Colony Theatre, DeGruccio is Hines aka Hinesy, the “time study man” who
opens the show with his warning to the audience to watch out for symbolism and
naked ladies. (There seem to be neither.)  Making the part completely his own,
DeGruccio is probably the cutest pixie of a Hinesy ever, with the factory girls almost as
enamored of him as they are of Sid Sirokin.  DeGruccio also gets to sing/dance Hinesy’s
signature “I’ll Never Be Jealous Again” to hilarious effect.

Completing the star-billed foursome is leggy triple-threat Terra C. Macleod as Gladys,
the secretary who guards the company books with her life (and a key hung safely
around her neck).  Macleod often shares the stage with DeGruccio and much comic
gold is mined from the discrepancy in their heights. Macleod also gets to perform
(sensationally) the legendary Fosse-originated “Steam Heat,” which catapulted
understudy Shirley MacLaine to stardom. In the Act 2 “Hernando’s Hideaway,”
Macleod vies for the “funniest drunk scene ever” title, demonstrating physical comedy
genius involving two chairs, a table, and an inebriated Gladys.

It’s doubtful that any Broadway musical offers more great supporting roles than
Pajama Game does.  This is one show where the stars spend some time offstage,
allowing their castmates their own moments in the spotlight. Examples:

Robert Pieranunzi as Prez. Pieranunzi is a local CLO staple, but rarely has he had the
opportunity to make the kind of stellar impression he does as the geeky Sleep-Tite
employees’ union president.  With Macleod, Pieranunzi gets to perform the
ungrammatical “Her Is,” which choreographer John Vaughan has spiced up with a
jungle beat. A sensational dancer, Pieranunzi gets to show off his excellent vocal skills
in “Seven-and-a-Half Cents” (FYI, that’s the raise that the Sleep-Tite employees are

The Broadway revival featured an African American Mabel (boss Mr. Hassler’s
secretary), and Glaudini has followed suit, casting the fabulous Vonetta Mixson in the
role.  Wise-cracking Mixson gets laughs even from throw-away lines, and with
DeGruccio wows the audience dancing to the aforementioned “I’ll Never Be Jealous
Again,” never more so than when the statuesque plus-sized Mixson picks up
DeGruccio and spins him around.  

Nils Anderson (a crusty Mr. Hasler) and Tim White (as Pop/Max) do fine work in their non-
singing roles, and among the factory girls, standouts include CLO favorite Dynell Leigh
as plump and perky Mae, Elizabeth Lauren Hoffman as the unfortunately named but
adorable Poopsie, and Katherine McLaughlin as spunky Brenda. Casey Garritano
follows his star turn in Oklahoma with an excellent ensemble work in Pajama Game.

Steam Heat would not be Steam Heat without Gladys’ two male dance partners, and
Macleod is fortunate to be sandwiched between Karl Warden and Charlie Williams.  
Tall hunky Warden (Corpus Christi) returns to MTW after a major Seven Brides for Seven
Brothers tour and we are lucky to have him back. Boy-next-door cutie Williams is a 19-
year-old soon-to-be star.  Together the three dazzle with choreographer Vaughan’s
Fosse-inspired moves, including the signature Fosse hat tricks, to the biggest ovation of
the evening.

Completing the excellent cast are Sam Berman, Penny Collins, Deborah Fauerbach,
Allison Knight, Mikhael Ortega, Anna Schnaitter, Ehren Schweibert, Raymond Tripp,
Scott Weber, and the always standout Kaci Wilson.

Director Glaudini’s special touches are everywhere, this production a clear
demonstration of why MTW’s already fine productions have reached a new standard
of excellence since his arrival. He is fortunate to be joined here by choreographer
Vaughan. In the opening “Racing with the Clock,” the male employees don’t just
race with the clock, they dance and somersault their way through the number. There
are sack races, tugs-of-war (tug-of-wars?), football tosses, and even more somersaults
in the lively “Once-A-Year-Day” picnic number. I liked Vaughan’s clock-like
movements for “Think of the Time I Save” and the Latin beat added to the “Pajama
Game” finale.  All of these numbers benefit greatly from Daniel Thomas’ terrific music
direction and the lively MTW orchestra.

Sets and costumes were provided by Music Theatre of Wichita, and they are
sensational! J. Branson’s sets are dazzling candy-colored (mostly red/orange/green)
delights, with blue and white pajama polka dots surrounding them, and a delicious
pink kitchen for Babe’s house. George Mitchell’s costumes are just as scrumptious. 
Both set and costumes are enhanced by Jean-Yves Tessier’s Technicolor lighting.  Julie
Ferrin’s sound design balanced orchestra and vocals perfectly.

I once appeared in a (1993) production of The Pajama Game (as the worker with the
weak arm, though unlike Williams who essays the same role here, I was fortunately not
asked to dance to “Steam Heat”!).  That production was directed by Gary Gordon
(Phantom) and choreographed by a just starting out Lee Martino, who even then
showed the talent that has made her an Ovation winning star choreographer. I know
this show backwards and forwards, and yet every moment of MTW’s production was
fresh and new for me, thanks to the imagination of Glaudini and his supertalented
cast and crew. Executive Director/Producer Paul Garman can be justly proud of this
55th season opener for Musical Theater West. 

MTW has a big big hit on its hands!

Carpenter Performing Arts Center, 6200 E. Atherton Street, Long Beach.

–Steven Stanley
November 3, 2007
Photos: Alysa Brennan

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