April 22, 2009 - The Pajama Game at the Mary Moody Northern Theatre
The Sleep-Tite Pajama Factory is open for business again, this time at St. Edward's Mary Moody Northern Theatre. And the student cast of The Pajama Game sings and dances their hearts out with gusto. It's just too bad they are trapped in such a convoluted production.
The current economical climate mirrors that of the show's 1954 origins, so it was a good choice to close the Theatre Department's season. But the uneven quality of the production
Standouts in the cast include leading man Andrew Cannata, who possesses a voice that will amaze even the most jaded musical snob. Sherry Mauch, playing leading lady "Babe," has a nice singing voice, but she never strikes the spark that would ignite a believable romantic story. And Jacob Trussel as "Hines" and Julia Duffy as his foil "Gladys" both steal the spotlight more than once with their comic deliveries and vaudeville hoofing.
But the show suffers from severe physical problems - which is unfortunate, considering the pedigrees of the creative team. The sound design is just terrible; there is no other way to describe it than "terrible." The orchestra was serviceable, but the brass section was very muddy (and often off-note), and it didn't help to continually hear the conductor counting off each musical number.
And although the Mary Moody Northern Theatre's "in the round" layout has always played havoc with musicals, the set design for this show is especially non-functional. The dramatic portions of the show are obscured from 50% of the audience at any given time.
Both the director and co-choreographers have impressive resumes, but they can't seem to grasp the physical demands of this production. We were unfortunately seated on the front row, and spent the entire 2.5 hours of the show feeling like either an actor would land in our laps, or straining to see the main action - which always happened either behind us or hidden among a sea of bodies on the stage. Only the classic song-and-dance number "Steam Heat" seemed to work...but just barely.
So if you go to see this production (it closes this weekend), make sure your tickets are in the top three rows of the theatre. Otherwise, you'll miss most of the show.
(Image: Andrew Cannata and Sherry Mauch; photo by Bret Brookshire)