REVIEW: The Pajama Game, Southampton Operatic Society, NST Campus

By David Putley

THIS musical based on the 1953 novel 7½ Cents by Richard Bissell deals with labour troubles in a pajama making factory, where workers' demands for a seven-and-a-half cent raise are going unheeded. In the midst of this ordeal, love blossoms between Babe, the grievance committee head, and Sid, the new factory superintendent.

Packed with likeable tunes, first time full director Gillian Parry has done well to cover some of the dated and haphazard script requirements. Set in a "nowhere time" mixture of 50's and modern dress, hairstyle and set (top marks for the 50's phones and kitchen appliances) the script throws curve balls of a time when licentiousness was an occupational hazard for girls at work, and what could have been more Carry On- acceptable humour, by being a tad too serious in approach at times was confusing and strange.

Knife throwing and reliance on liquor for amateurs is not easy and Mike Pavitt as Vernon Hines captures perfectly the drunken antics of this perplexing character forever chasing Sophie Barnard's warm and enchanting Gladys, resorting to said knife-throwing eventually to prove his point.

Sadly Neil Maddock was due to play Sid but due to a recent accident had to withdraw from the role. The brave and talented Daniel Ferrett stepped in with four weeks notice to cover his part. And what energy and fine lyrical singing he brought with a virtually unhindered performance throughout, making the most of the script that moves Sid from utter joy in relationship to sacking his beloved not ten minutes later due to Company loyalty.

As his beloved Babe, Susie Maycock's voice is pure velvet, her second half repeat version of Hey There being particularly good amongst a whole evening of good character interpretation and lovely singing. Her energy and joy in being on stage shone through.

Tina Adams as a doting Mabel, Matthew Pike as Max, Amanda Peaty as Brenda and Ellie Robinson as Poopsie, Paul Dawson-Plincke as the girl-chasing Prez, did well in supportive roles as was David Collis as Factory Owner Mr Hasler, who maniacally was able to sustain a character who continually seemed one step away from serious breakdown yet inspired loyalty and affection.

Some first night nerves and technical difficulties affected the pace somewhat, especially some of the scene changes and sound effect timings, but that will speed up as the week progresses. The band under Tom Guyer were also perhaps suffering from their own steam heat, being a little loud in places where essential dialogue was being conducted and lacking in a little bounce in some of the bigger chorus numbers. Slight first night niggles basically.

All in all, a well sung Broadway Classic.