Their set may not be as flashy as last year, and their costumes not as complex, but this year, the musical production at Langley Secondary School is “very real.”
The Pajama Game, opening Feb. 26, takes audiences on a journey back to the 1950s at the Sleep-Tite Pajama Factory, where the workers are upset with their wages, and a new superintendent stuggles with running the factory over falling in love.
Coming on the heels of last year’s successful production of Shrek, this year’s play has a much different feel, said Patti Thorpe, music teacher at LSS.
“This show is all about the people,” she said.
“It’s about relationships and dreams, it doesn’t need to be complicated.”
“Shrek was all about fairy tale creatures and fantasy, and this is very much real. The characters are very real. They speak from the heart — it’s a very down to earth kind of show.”
Based on the novel 7 1/2 Cents by Richard Pike Bissell, the Broadway production of The Pajama Game won the 1955 Tony Award for Best Musical, and was adapted into a movie starring Doris Day in 1957.
It was the eighth musical on Broadway to exceed 1,000 performances in its first run, and has returned to Broadway three times since.
The LSS adaptation features 32 students, including one from HD Stafford Middle School, and a 25-piece community orchestra of volunteers.
Many of the band members return year after year to provide the students with the unique opportunity to perform with live music.
“I literally pay them in cookies … the rest is from the goodness of their hearts,” Thorpe said.
“They are just people in the community that give us this time, and it makes such a rich experience for the kids to perform with a live band.”
Students from the LSS trades, metal shop, home economics and visual arts programs, along with many parents, have also helped with building the set in the gymnasium, and creating costumes and props.
Thorpe is particularly proud of the performing student’s dedication to learning choreography, which was originally done by Bob Fosse on Broadway.
“We’ve thrown a lot of songs that have a lot of dancing at them this year, and they’ve really been working very hard at that,” Thorpe said.
“And we have some very young students — some Grade 9s filling some major roles — and they’re doing a stunning job.”
This is the tenth production Thorpe has worked on at LSS along with drama teacher Brian Leonard. They were joined by choreographer Emma Garland, a 2013 LSS grad.
Apart from the dynamic songs and dancing in the musical, the team chose The Pajama Game as this year’s production based on the roles it can provide their students.
“The Pajama Game has a lot of good women roles. And that is always the struggle as a high school music theatre company … because we have more women who are comfortable singing (and) we have more women who are comfortable dancing,” Thorpe said.
“So The Pajama Game is a great show. We did it a few years ago in a summer program and loved it then. The music is fun (and) there are some great songs.”