THE PAJAMA GAME, Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. This irresistible 1954 Broadway classic harks back to a time when you could pin a plot on a threatened strike, here by workers at a pajama factory in Cedar Rapids. (Solidarity, alas, isn't forever.) Complete with plenty of novelty numbers (including the Bob Fosse signature items "Hernando's Hideaway" and "Steam Heat"), this instantly likable musical by George Abbott, Richard Adler, and Jerry Ross features the same salt-of-the-earth characters and solid situations as Damn Yankees, their next winner.
The story's unlikely soul mates are Babe, head of the union's grievance committee, and Sid, a factory superintendent from Chicago. With help from the delicious "Hey There," they discover that love can reconcile even management and labor. Heidi Kettenring and Brian Herriott never condescend to their characters and root the tale in grown-up passions. Rollicking characterizations come from Alene Robertson as an accommodating secretary, Don Forston as the hearty union chief, Richard Henzel as Babe's matchmaking dad, and Evan Pappas as an efficiency expert who can't control his flirtatious fiancee, an effervescent Rachel Rockwell.
Under Stafford Arima's surefire direction, the performers kick up a sweet storm in choreographer Patti Wilcox's raucous "Once a Year Day" picnic romp and "7 1/2 Cents," an anthem to a raise. Wilcox even finds humor in the show's most curious number, a "jealousy ballet" performed on a very busy bed.