The 1950s Broadway musical The Pajama Game will receive a high-profile revival next month at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. The production, directed by actor and author Simon Callow, will feature two unlikely stage stars -- TV presenter Ulrika Jonsson and comedian and poet John Hegley. The Pajama Game will open for five weeks only on April 23 before a transfer to Toronto and a hoped-for West End stint.
The classic musical is well-known as a vehicle for Shirley MacLaine in the Broadway original and later for Doris Day in the film version. The Swedish Jonsson, familiar in Britain as the presenter of TV's "Gladiators" and the sidekick to comedians Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer on the game show "Shooting Stars," will make her stage debut in the role of Babe Williams. Jonsson has reportedly been taking singing lessons to prepare for the part.
Hegley, known for his verse contributions to The Guardian and his poetry performances at the Edinburgh Fringe and around the country, plays Vernon Hines, while former "East Enders" soap star Anita Dobson plays Mabel. They are joined by Graham Bickley (Sid Sorokin) and Alison Limerick (Gladys Hotchkiss).
Callow, who has been working hard for several years to make the show a reality, has also gathered together an eclectic but impressive creative team. American abstract painter Frank Stella, one of the leading figures of late 20th-century art, is designing the set. Britain's leading saxophonist John Harle, who works regularly with Paul McCartney and Elvis Costello, is supervising the music. And David Bintley, artistic director of the Birmingham Royal Ballet, is in charge of the choreography.
The Pajama Game is based on the novel "Seven-and-a-half-cents" by Richard Bissell with music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross and book by George Abbott and Richard Bissell. Songs include "Hernando's Hideaway," "Hey There (You With the Stars in Your Eyes)" and "Steam Heat." For further information, contact the Birmingham Repertory box office at 011-44-121-236-4455.