On Theater: It's a 'Pajama' party at Vanguard

Oldies frequently can be goodies.

"The Pajama Game," for instance, won a Tony as Broadway's best musical in 1954 and was revived in 2006, winning another Tony for best revival.

It hasn't been seen much locally, but Vanguard University has resurrected this nearly 60-year-old chestnut and breathed new life into it in a lively production under the spirited direction of Vanda Eggington.

Eggington pushes all the right buttons to highlight the show's period comedy, keeping said period in 1954 when its quaint and corny flavor were fresh and fanciful. Most of its elements, including the romance between the new shop superintendent and the comely union activist, have aged quite well, while others (the timekeeper's fantasy sequence) might well have been excised for, ironically, time's sake.

The musical score, by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, transcends the dated book by George Abbott and Richard Bissell (whose novel "7½ Cents" inspired the show). Numbers like "Hey There," "Steam Heat" and "Hernando's Hideaway" still resonate and the choreography — by Bretlyn Schmitt who excels as the light-footed secretary Gladys — is terrific.

As the young, ambitious pajama factory superintendent, Jordan Laemmlen — only a freshman but displaying seasoned senior talent — is smooth and authoritative, with a powerful singing voice. He's well matched with Donna Louden-White as Babe, the one-woman grievance committee, who handles her labor showdown (and romantic) tensions with aplomb.

The star of this show, however, is Schmitt, another multi-talented freshman from whom much will be expected in the future. She not only pulls off the kooky comedy with the jealous timekeeper (Zach Simons), but also choreographed five numbers, including her spotlighted "Steam Heat."

Simons, as the "time study man," has the show's silliest assignment, but his manic energy sustains it effectively. His knife-throwing act will have playgoers scratching their heads, but he scores particularly on his comedy number "Think of the Time I Save."

Nick Lazaris is a hoot as the womanizing union leader, Anna Michelle De La Cour flaunts her flaming femininity as factory gal Poopsie, while Elizabeth Suzanne gets in some nice comic digs as the drab office girl Mabel.

Schmitt's scintillating choreography is beautifully on view in the rousing picnic number "Once a Year Day" and Babe's insistence that "I'm Not at All in Love," which brings to mind Nellie's "Wonderful Guy" number from "South Pacific." Assistant choreographer Dekontee Tucrkile staged the climactic "7½ Cents" ensemble piece, which also works well.

Scenic designer Paul Eggington's unit setting functions well as a factory, office or outdoor picnic area. Ken Foerch's eight-piece orchestra provides bouncy accompaniment.

"The Pajama Game" is indeed a period piece, but its mid-1950s flavor adds to the nostalgic enjoyment in this sparkling revival at Vanguard University.

TOM TITUS covers local theater for the Daily Pilot.

If You Go

What: "The Pajama Game"

Where: Vanguard University Lyceum Theater, 55 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa

When: 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays through April 22, and at 2 p.m. April 22

Tickets: $14 to $17

For tickets call: (714) 668-6145

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