Written by Daniella Litvak
Picture Romeo and Juliet. Now take them out of fair Verona. Place them in a pajama factory during the 1950s Midwest and you have the makings of The Pajama Game.
Sid Sorokin is the new superintendent at the Sleeptite pajama manufacturing factory. Katherine “Babe” Williams is leader of the Union Grievance Committee for the factory’s garment workers. While they are falling in love, the tension between management and the workers is growing because the workers are not receiving the industry standard amount of pay for their work. If a strike happens, Sid and Babe will be on opposite sides. Can their love survive?
The Pajama Game prioritizes romance. Many songs are devoted to Side and Babe’s feelings for one another — some of them one right after another. As much as I liked both “Small Talk” and “There Once Was a Man,” I wished they were further apart from one another so romantic beats did not feel so repetitive.
Stage time is also afforded to the more troubled romances of the supporting characters. Hines, the factory’s efficiency expert, gets insanely jealous at the thought of Gladys, assistant to the factory’s owner, stepping out on him. Garment workers Prez and Mae are having an affair.
Since most of the focus is on the love stories, the labor dispute storyline feels underdeveloped, especially during the first act. There is chatter about the pay disparity, but it does not sufficiently set up the dramatic stakes. Since the work issues have a significant impact on Sid and Babe’s relationship, more attention should have been paid to them. Because of the lack of attention, the action leading to the first act cliffhanger came off as underwhelming.
The show, however, is a charming and fun musical because of the impressive execution from cast, crew, and orchestra.
The acting is crucial because, in the wrong hand, characters like Hines (Nick Daniel) and Prez (Max Smith) would be too despicable to watch. Daniel and Smith do a great job of keeping their characters humorous, so the audience does not dwell too much on the unsavory aspects of their characters to the point of distraction. The acting helps hide the fact the subplots don’t really go anywhere.
The singing is universally strong from start to finish, and the dancing is fantastic. The cast nails the complex choreography in numbers like “Once A Year Day” and “Steam Heat.” Sean Kato as Sid pulls off a moving duet with himself during “Hey There.” He and Emily Crabb, as Gladys, exhibit scorching chemistry when dancing on/adjacent to the piano during “Hernando’s Hideaway.” “I’ll Never be Jealous Again” is another excellent number — largely because of the performances from Daniel and Lily Horns as Mabel.
The costumes look period-appropriate. Even though most of the show is set at a working factory, the costuming during “Steam Heat,” “Hernando’s Hideaway,” and the finale helps add glamor to the show at the right moments.
Overall, this is another well-done production from the Huntington Beach Academy of the Performing Arts. If you are looking for a fun, charming, high-energy musical theater experience — make The Pajama Game your game.
 Many of the roles are alternated. I’m listing the performers who played the roles on the night I attended.