Richard Eyre’s sensational production of the Broadway classic The Pajama Game transfers to Shaftesbury Theatre from 2nd May for a limited season following a critically acclaimed, sold out run at Chichester Festival Theatre with a cast including Joanna Riding and Michael Xavier, and featuring Peter Polycarpou until 31 May and Gary Wilmot from 2 June.
In 1950s America, love is in the air at the Sleep-Tite Pajama Factory as handsome new Superintendent Sid Sorokin (Michael Xavier) falls head-over-heels for feisty Union rep Babe Williams (Joanna Riding). Sparks fly when the employees are refused a seven-and-a-half cents an hour raise, leaving Sid and Babe deliciously at odds as the temperature rises in this buoyantly blissful blend of romance and comedy. Will love, eventually, conquer all?
West End regular Michael Xavier has gained Olivier nominations for his performances as Oliver in Love Story (Duchess Theatre) and Cinderella’s Prince / The Wolf in Into The Woods (Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre).
We caught up with him to learn a little more about the show...
You’ve performed in numerous musicals including The Sound of Music, Phantom of the Opera and Oklahoma!. What was it that attracted you to this particular show?
It was a huge success when it opened down in Chichester last summer. Plus, the Olivier Award-winning creative team are just wonderful! Directed by ex-National Theatre Artistic Director Richard Eyre, choreographed by Stephen Mear and musically directed by Gareth Valentine. Also, I get to perform opposite the outstanding, double Olivier Award-winning actress Joanna Riding. The final reason is that I love the role of Sid. He's tough, stubborn and an alpha male, but has a good sense of morality and duty. His conflict with both himself and Babe makes for an unusual, exciting and unpredictable romantic relationship.
What can audiences expect from this production of The Pajama Game?
This production was already a hit down in Chichester so you know you're coming to see a show that has been put together beautifully. Plus, it's full of comedy, romance, high-energy dance routines and of course, wonderful songs by Adler & Ross including Hey There, Hernando's Hideaway & Steam Heat.
Musicals like The Pajama Game require a huge amount of enthusiasm and energy. How difficult is it to keep this up night in, night out?
Keeping your enthusiasm and energy night after night isn't difficult if you remain focused and open to change at every turn. Those who get bored do so because they set 'their' show in stone and don't enjoy the immediacy and unpredictability of live performance. Plus, working as a lead in a West End show is a great way to make a living so I don't ever take it for granted!
Who or what has been the biggest influence on your career?
My chemistry teacher who told me I'd never make any money being an actor. At that point I remember thinking; "I'll prove you wrong." That statement has stuck with me my whole career and makes me all the more determined to be a success.
And finally, what do you think it is that makes The Pajama Game a great night out for groups?
Well, what's NOT to love about The Pajama Game? Toe-tapping tunes, comedy, love, dancing and (if it's a hen do) I get my shirt off at the end! It ticks every box for the perfect group trip the theatre.