Wednesday, 7 April 2010

The Pajama Game, The Rattonians Youth Group, Devonshire Park Theatre Eastbourne Review

The Rattonians Youth Group presents
The Pajama Game 
A Musical Comedy
 7-10 April 2010
Devonshire Park Theatre

The Pajama Game The Rattonians Youth Group
Well although I'm posting this the day after seeing this you only have a couple of days to see this entertaining little musical performed by the very talented Rattonian Youth Group.

Let's start with the band first this year however and perhaps we should have seen the programme labelled "The Rattonian Youth group accompanied by the Rattonians Band 'The Sardines'"

Actually a few little sardines probably have more room to move in their tin than the 12 band members did in The Devonshire Park Theatre's very small orchestra pit. I can imagine that it must have taken some considerable time to organize this so that each of the 11 men and one woman were as comfortable as possible for the show. It certainly can't have been the most comfortable experience for them. Even in the interval many of the band members had to literally step over the pit into the auditorium to escape for 20 minutes and two in the middle didn't even bother leaving. Whether this was because they didn't want to, it was to much hassle or they actually couldn't is anybody's guess. However, squashed or not, 'The Sardines' put on a great musical performance and led us into the show with what must be one of the longest intros in musical history.
The Pajama Game The Rattonian Youth Group
It's not the first time producers Mark and Melanie Adams have chosen The Pajama Game for their Company. It was performed in 1988 at The Royal Hippodrome and as it is suited  a young company it has been resurrected for 2010.

However, this is far removed from the very innocent Just So (Rudyard Kipling story based) musical performed last year. For me it is appears a  brave thing to stage a musical that covers beer drinking, infidelity and more than a hint or two of sexual relations with such a young cast (vast majority under 16). However when, in this day and age, most children probably know more about these subjects from their parents I wonder if it really matters?

I guess only official local  press reaction will be the way to establish how this goes down with the audiences over it's 4 day run.

The story revolves around a Pajama factory (Sleep Tite). It covers the relationship between company and staff and specifically the relationship between superintendant, Sid Sorokin and leader of the the Grievance Committee, Babe Williams. Meanwhile married man Prez (unhappily married he claims) fancies his chances with almost anything that breathes and wears a skirt informing each woman they are the one for him. There's also a side story that all our pajama makers feel they are underpaid and have to persuade their "book cooking" boss, Hasler, that they warrant the extra cash.

As with a lot of plays and musicals the first act is more about scene setting and getting you familiar with relationships between characters. It is of course not the Rattonians fault (George Abbott and Richard Bissell wrote the original book) but the second half is certainly far more entertaining and lively. As I said this happens in many a play/musical and is not a critisism of any performance on the night.

What was great this year is that a comment I made last year had been addressed. Several additional microphones were positioned at the stage edge to carry the young performers voices above the great sound from The Sardines so the audience could hear better.  I'd love to take the credit but I'm sure Mark and Melanie Adams have something better to do with 70+ Youth Group members plus all the seniors to read this annual waffle.

My wife and I had a chat about the casting on the way home and had to agree that the principal characters had been very well cast.

As always all The Rattonians were vocally excellent but whilst I really hate picking out individuals it would be unfair not to mention some truly exceptional performances. Ben Gurney (Prez) plays an excellent "God's gift to women" and not only acts well but costume also did a great job of making him look like a lecherous so-and-so too. Lucy Cheetham is perfect as Mabel and Aimee Dyer shines as the scatty Gladys.

However, it is one of those shows where the leads really do stand out. Ryan Funnell has a very involved role as the suffering-in-love Sid Sorokin. But he sailed through this opening night having put in an emotional and vocally superb performance.

And then we come to the last-but-not-least.

12 months ago there was a young, sweet, girl who must have made her family very proud in Just So. For once I quote myself "Young Meggie Dennis was a revelation as the Kolokolo Bird." 

How a young performer can mature so much in a mere 12 months is amazing. Tonight Meggie was a 'young girl' no more. Instead an incredible, confident 'young lady' took to the stage to deliver a stunning mature performance. She really put the 'Babe' into Babe Williams. Yes essentially the Pajama Game is a comedy but there is also the requirement for a good deal of emotion in this show. Emotion is something this young lady can deliver with a capital E.

If Meggie Dennis isn't on a national stage in the role of Roxie Hart in Chicago in the next 5-10 years I would be amazed - it's a role made for her.

So nice work Meggie and to all The "younger" Rattonians for yet another great show. If anything let you down tonight it's the same thing as last year that you have no control over whatsoever and which I know the producers are aware of. That is the size of The Devonshire Park Theatre Stage for such a large company. It must be so incredibly difficult for parents of some company members to even spot them during crowded moments on stage. If only this coud be staged at the Congress it could be so different (and the Sardines could swim again!) but from a practical point of view the larger theatre has other shows to stage.

Next up from The Rattonians (seniors and youth members) is Broadway Bound " A fabulous selection of showstoppers from your favourite musicals". That's at The Congress Theatre (hooray!) from 21st to 31st July. We then in November 2010 get a treat, again from The Youth Group, with Hairspray (Dates and venue to be confirmed).

Incidentally 'The Rattonians' is one of the most used search phrases on this site. So thank you to whoever keeps popping in. Whether you are a Rattonian, potential audience member or just curious about The Rattonians work thanks for your support. You will find a little more on The Rattonians on my special page at Fans Of Drama and Promoting Theatre .

I'll be back with a review of Broadway Bound sometime in July by which time The Rattonians will have raised many. many more pounds for very worthwhile charitable causes.
4 out of 5 The Pajama Game The Rattonians

The Rattonians present Broadway Bound in July at The Congress Theatre Eastbourne
Note there is a typing error in the above flyer
The correct dates are 21-31 July 2010
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