Tough girls

Chico State musical The Pajama Game takes a trip through 1950s America

LABOR RELATIONS Tyler Bennet (left) and Julia D. Dalton face off in the Chico State production of the ‘50s musical comedy <i>The Pajama Game.</i>

LABOR RELATIONS Tyler Bennet (left) and Julia D. Dalton face off in the Chico State production of the ‘50s musical comedy The Pajama Game.

Courtesy Of CSUC Department of Theater Arts

1950s America was a pretty schizophrenic place. On one side, there was the worry and the anxiety that fed McCarthyism, and on the other the dying vestiges of the communal sense shared by a people who, acting together, had survived the Great Depression and World War II.

Strangely, the ‘50s produced some fine art—The Old Man and the Sea, A Death in the Family, The Caine Mutiny, the later existentialists, the writings of Baldwin and the Beats—and some fine films, including The Third Man, Rebel Without a Cause, North by Northwest and what is perhaps the richest view of the split American psyche, John Ford’s The Searchers.

In the early ‘50s, a couple of tough, fresh, energetic new musicals hit Broadway: Guys and Dolls in 1950 and, in 1954, The Pajama Game, by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross. What sounds like a terrific rendition of this splendid musical is about to be put on at Chico State next week.

Like the ‘50s, The Pajama Game celebrates common individuals working together (here, in a labor union) and, at the same time, looks back (or is it ahead?) at the tough women who took charge in so many Depression-era films and plays. Indeed, it is the women in Pajama Game who are the toughies.

Replete with fabulous songs like “Hey There,” “I Don’t Want to Talk Small Talk,” “There Once Was a Man,” “Hernando’s Hideaway” and “Steam Heat,” and boasting choreography put together by the young Bob Fosse, The Pajama Game looks to be a great show.

Directed by Joel Rogers, accompanied by an orchestra led by Northstate Symphony Director Kyle Pickett, backed by what Rogers refers to as a “larger-than-life set that will stun you” and featuring experienced dancers and actors, including Jarrod Rothstein of last year’s sellout Will Rogers Follies, dancer Jenny Rand (come to Chico from the Sacramento Ballet), Christopher Harper, Emma Jessee, Monica Turner, Isaiah Bent and numerous other Chico State performers, the show would seem a pretty sure bet.

I saw the original Pajama Game in 1955. If this one has half the joy and punch of that one, it’s well worth a visit.