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Look here. Take it from me. Drumbeats and Song's production of The Pajama Game has got just about everything: it's got the twist, a chorus line of dolls, the Hencken sisters (both of 'em), magnificent leads, even a great Pop. But, as Chairman Khrushchev has said, statistics fry no pancakes. Just let me say I loved it; it's the most exuberant show ever.
And first things first. Ciji Ware is Gladys the pneumatic secretary; she's the best thing that ever happened to the part. Her "Her Is," to take just a single example (I mean, I could go on all night--stop me if you've heard this before) shows Rindge Tech what bump and grind really means: half a green shirt and those creamy white pants. That's all she's got, and that's all she needs. Bump. Grind. Wow.
Of course, she's jes' fine in the rest of those numbers too. At Hernando's Hideaway, she gets deliciously and most raucously drunk; before that, with bowler, smock and tights, she's given us "Steam Heat" (Janet Mendelsohn and Charon Lee Cohen, the show's choreographer, assist her in that). Accoutered as she is she'd heat up any union.
Then how about Richard Stone: he's Gladys' maniacal boy friend, Hines the time-study man. Rolling his eyes with the fury of the late Al Jolson, pointing his finger with the assurance of Phil Silvers, he stalks his way through a number like "Think of the Time I Save." His real triumph, though, (it's perhaps the high spot of the whole show) is the fanatic "I'll Never Be Jealous Again," where, steeled to devotion by a secretary, Mabel (Barbara Charakian), he sweeps the woman into one of the deftest, suavest soft-shoe bits since Eddie Foy created the role of Hinesy.
The romantic leads are just as good. Liz Fillo (Babe) and Jack Bates (Sid) have charming voices (yeah, I'm running out of adjectives): Miss Fillo, in "There Once Was A Man" is a lover for all times, and Mr. Bates can make even a doughnut song like "New Town" sound as if it were worth listening to.
But, like most musicals, Jeu de Pajame is most fun when everybody is on stage at once--between the songs there are, after all, an awful lot of crummy lines (the cue for "Small Talk" is that oh-so-memorable line "What's the matter, lover?"). And having come to this, I can now fling praise at Miss Cohen and at Thom Babe, the director. The big production numbers are awesome. Mr. Babe's blocking and Miss Cohen's choreography are smoothly professional, overwhelmingly competent. Their "7 1/2" has the chorus brandishing a forest of picket signs; it effectively fills every square inch of the stage, and it's snappy, loud, and boffo.
I've already said that Pop is great, but I've got to say it again. George Engel has an inimitable senile cackle. And I should mention the frightening Fulton Lewis--loving boss (Sheldon Dietz), the scratchy Poopsie (Carol Derris), the voluptuous Mae (Joan Burke), and the cigar-chomping, philandering Prez (Jim Field). What else? Oh yes, a fine, full sized (for once) orchestra, led capably by David Klausner. And that's about the size of it.
My friends in the cast--and they are now legion--tell me there aren't many seats left for tonight's performance of Die Pajamaspiele. So, if you're up to it, fight your way to a couple of tickets. As Babe says, "It's so good I can't believe it."
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