Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Also see Susan's review of Vicuña & The American Epilogue
The momentum never slows in this 1954 musical about love and politics at a pajama factory, with music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross and book by George Abbott and Richard Bissell, based on Bissell's novel "7½ Cents." James Noone's ingenious scenic design makes use of the entire in-the-round Fichandler Stage, including the aisles between seating sections and incorporating a dramatic staircase, and Esse's cast members spill into the audience as they dance with hula hoops, badminton racquets, packing cartons and bolts of fabric, even with sewing machines and pieces of furniture. And that's before they get to "Hernando's Hideaway."
As good as Tim Rogan (chiseled features, muscular, resonant voice) and Britney Coleman (outspoken, charming, sure of herself as a woman in a man's world) are in the lead roles of Sid, the new superintendent at the Sleep-Tite Pajamas factory in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Babe, head of the union's grievance committee, it's the supporting performers who bring this production to life.
The resplendent Donna McKechnie is so vital in the relatively minor role of senior secretary Mabel that it's hard to accept that more than four decades have passed since she won the Tony Award for A Chorus Line. The character (in most productions, a solidly built woman) always had a low-key soft shoe duet with time-study manager Hines (Eddie Korbich), but there's nothing sedate about the number here. Korbich, a skilled physical comedian, also gets a chance to tap dance while surrounded by the women of the chorus.
Blakely Slaybaugh as the union president, a would-be ladies' man, has some astonishing acrobatic moves, while Nancy Anderson as the boss' secretary puts up with the constant attentions of most of the male characters and joins dancers Tony Neidenbach and Jay Adriel in "Steam Heat," the dance number that made Bob Fosse's reputation. Esse stays close to Fosse's language of hats and stylized contortions, although costume designer Alejo Vietti has chosen to dress the dancers more informally than the original black and white suits. And Edward Gero gets to fume about high overhead costs and creeping communism as the harried factory owner.