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‘Pajama Game’ reawakens a bygone era

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By Sara Miller

The aisles of the stores are filled with high-tech video games and iPads, and movie theaters are buzzing with the latest three-dimensional marvel. This holiday season is packed with the latest and greatest of 21st-century technology, and it can be, at times, overwhelming. Why not take a break from the electronic rat race and enjoy a fun-filled evening at StageDoor Theatre’s production of “The Pajama Game.” It’s sure to be a light-hearted blast from the past.
“The Pajama Game” first opened on Broadway in 1954 and ran for more than 1,000 performances. The show is set in Cedar Rapids at the Sleep-Tite Pajama Factory and centers on new factory superintendent Sid Sorokin (played by Parker Redford) and Babe Williams (played by Rachel Hammond), the union’s one-woman grievance committee. The two fall in love in the midst of a labor dispute but find themselves on opposite sides of the issue. The factory’s workers want a 7.5-cent raise, and the boss, Mr. Hasler (played by James Landon), refuses to give in.
Meanwhile, Hines (played by Chas Lederer), the popular efficiency expert, is in love with Gladys (played by Amelia Parker), the company president’s secretary (played by Quintn Parker) but is pushing her away with his jealous behavior. After witnessing a fight between the couple, Sid’s secretary, Mabel (played by Savannah Mack), tries to help Hines break from his jealous ways.
What ensues is a rousing company picnic and a look at America’s mid-’50s postwar economy, which was booming — a time when life felt good and safe. Historically, “Pajama Game” hinges on the underlying tensions of the emerging women’s movement and the role of outspoken dames like Babe in the labor wars of the time. All of this wrapped up with familiar songs like “Hernando’s Hideaway” and high-energy dance numbers like “Steam Heat,” choreographed by Jenna Hawkins an as homage to the show’s original choreographer, the infamous Bob Fosse.
“We’re so pleased to welcome Jenna to the StageDoor family,” says Nelson Conway, the show’s director. “This is the first show that she has choreographed for us. She has these high school students executing some very inventive choreography. It’s great to see.”
The show also boasts a deep pool of StageDoor veterans. The live musical accompaniment is played by a trio that is quickly becoming StageDoor’s in-house band for student proejcts. The band is made up of Deb Christensen on piano, Gwynn Mayeux playing the clarinet and Anthony Lederhos on drums.
“We also wouldn’t be able to put on such quality productions without the help of our behind-the-scenes volunteers,” says Conway. “We have a committed group of supporters who have helped to construct our sets while continuing to build out the back of the newly renovated StageDoor Theatre.”
Meanwhile, in front of the curtain, the cast of 27 high school students from throughout the mountain area is blowing the dust off of a classic Broadway hit and giving it a fresh 21st-century feeling.

Sara Miller, a freelance writer and a resident of Evergreen, lives with her husband, two children and a dog.