Karen Ziemba will play Babe Williams in the May 2-6 concert revival of Adler and Ross' The Pajama Game, sources confirmed. Her hoped for antagonist in the show's union-labor romance is Brent Barrett, currently headlining Kiss Me, Kate in London. Official casting for the show has not been announced.
Ziemba won a 2000 Tony Award for her performance in Contact as a housewife who escapes a suffocating marriage through choreographed flights of fancy. The show was only her latest collaboration with director-choreographer Susan Stroman, who had previously cast her in And the World Goes Round, Crazy for You and Steel Pier.
Barrett is receiving some of the best notices of his career as Fred Graham in Kiss Me, Kate. Recently, he was nominated for an Olivier Award. On Broadway, he is known as a sturdy replacement player, stepping into lead roles in Annie Get Your Gun and Chicago, in which he has played Billy Flynn many times.
John Rando will direct Pajama Game, which has a book by George Abbott and Richard Bissell. Abbott and Jerome Robbins directed the original 1954 Broadway production, which starred Janis Paige and John Raitt as the romantic leads, and featured the choreographic Broadway debut of Bob Fosse. Fosse took cast members Carol Haney, Buzz Miller and Peter Gennaro and created what became the show's most famous number, "Steam Heat." The score also features "Hey There."
* How many Encores! musicals-in-concert can Debbie Gravitte appear in? Well, as many as she wants, apparently. She's taking the stage at City Center once again Feb. 7-10 in the series' look at Bob Merrill and Michael Stewart's Carnival. Also heading the cast are Brian Stokes Mitchell, Douglas Sills and Ann Hathaway. Kathleen Marshall directs.
Gravitte has previously acted at Encores! in The Boys from Syracuse and Tenderloin. Mitchell won a Tony Award for his Fred Graham in Kiss Me, Kate. Douglas Sills swashbuckled his way through The Scarlet Pimpernel. And neophyte Hathaway, who will play the orphan Lili, is best known for the film "The Princess Diaries."
Hathaway takes the role created on Broadway by Anna Maria Alberghetti. Jerry Orbach and Kaye Ballard also starred in the original staging.
The series will also include former Encores! artistic director Walter Bobbie's look at Strouse and Adams' Golden Boy in March.
—By Robert Simonson