Rockville Musical Theatre The Pajama GameBy Jennifer Gusso • Nov 4th, 2010 • Category: Reviews
Rockville Musical Theatre
F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre, Rockville, MD
Through November 14th
2:30 with one intermission
$20/$18 Seniors/$16 Students
Reviewed October 30th, 2010
It is easy to see the mark of a strong director and strong direction on a production. This was certainly the case in Rockville Musical Theatre’s The Pajama Game. Director Michael Kharfen made the decision to celebrate everything that was over-the-top and fun about the musicals of the 1950s in his very successful production. From the moment that the curtains open, the production was a spectacular display for the eyes and ears that went just beyond realistic without transcending to being fake or campy.
This vision was best exemplified in excellent performances on the parts of Colleen Marie Arnold (Babe Williams) and Jeff Breslow (Vernon Hines). Arnold was the epitome of the musical leading lady with her perfect girl-next-door appeal, clean and strong vocals, and her ability to make Babe both brassy and likeable at the same time. Her performance and vocals during “I’m Not at All in Love” were easily Broadway-caliber. Breslow’s comic timing and nonverbal acting were without reproach. I have seen this show many times, and Breslow still found new and different ways to make me laugh out loud with his antics as the loveable, yet crazy, Hines. His rendition of “Think of the Time I Saved” was original and hilarious.
Solid performances were also delivered by Julie Bain Zittrauer (Gladys), Karen Fleming (Mabel), and Albert Coia (Prez). Each of them established a strong character that they stayed true to throughout and maintained strong and appealing vocals. Fleming rushed her lines a little at the beginning but seemed to relax quickly and find a good pace for Mabel. Her and Breslow’s duet, “I’ll Never Be Jealous Again,” was one of the best moments in the production.
John Loughney’s portrayal of Sid Sorokin was slightly more problematic. Loughney is extremely talented and has an incredible voice. In fact, outside of the context of the show, Loughney is easily the best vocalist of the group. However, Loughney seemed a little out of place within the production. The vision of the show seemed to be to stay very true to musicals of the 1950s. All of the other vocalists had that “classical Broadway” tone quality and that slightly overdramatic “musical theater” acting. Loughney, on the other hand, was subtle in his performance and his tone, vowel sounds, and phrasing gave him the more pop-infused sound of modern Broadway productions. His performance was excellent, but it was at a clear disconnect from the rest of the cast. Loghney and Arnold’s duets sounded like they were singing in two different shows and singing to each other across decades. As a result, the chemistry between the two actors was not as strong as it should have been.
Katie McManus (Mae) was stunning. The problem is that Mae should not be stunning. In the original script, the character is named “Mae, the fat girl.” In the 2006 revival, she was instead made into an extremely nerdy tomboy. Either way, it should make sense that Mae is validly insecure and lonely enough to fall for the married Prez’s obviously womanizing advances. McManus’ Mae was so strong and beautiful that it didn’t make any sense with the actions of the character.
Even the ensemble was extremely strong. The women of the ensemble were especially wonderful, and stand-out performances came from Teri Klein Allred and Renee Rabben.
The real star of the show, however, was Andrea Heininge’s choreography. Bob Fosse would have been proud. From the simple movements of the factory workers during “Racing with the Clock” to the sizzling and suave footwork of “Steam Heat,” every number was visually stunning and clean.
The set, designed by John Decker, was ideal. It was big and bold and representational. Adding to the set was excellent lighting, designed by Chris Curtis. The different colors used on the back cyc really helped to set the mood and tone of each scene. The costumes, designed by Patsy Di Bella-Kreger, were also an excellent complement to the vision of the production. The sound was perfectly balanced so that it was never obvious that the actors were using microphones. The sound design, by Nich Upchurch, added richly to the production with appropriate background noise throughout the production.
This production is definitely worth seeing. It is everything that is fun and feel-good about classical musical theater in an extremely solid production.
- Sid Sorokin: John Loughney
- Babe Williams: Colleen Marie Arnold
- Vernon Hines: Jeff Breslow
- Gladys: Julie Bain Zittrauer
- Mabel: Karen Fleming
- Prez: Albert Coia
- Mae: Katie McManus
- Hasler: David Elvove
- Pop Williams: Don Bruns
- Virginia: Teri Klein Allred
- Max: Jonathan Cagle-Mulberg
- Dale: Ivan Davila
- Joe: Heath Dillard
- Rita: Kim Frias
- Carmen: Brenna Holman
- Sara: Katrina Jansen
- Jim: Kevin James Logan
- Poopsie: Hayley North
- Brenda: Renee Rabben
- Charlene: Dana Robinson
- Charley: Jerry Stringham
- Mary: Leslie Walbert
- Producer: Eric S. Scerbo
- Director: Michael Kharfen
- Music Director: Valerie A. Higgs
- Choreographer: Andrea Heininge
- Dance Captains: Ivan Davila, Hayley North
- Fight Choreography: Tommy Witherspoon
- Stage Manager: Denise M. Gilmore
- Assistant Stage Manager: Daniella Ceus
- Fly Operator: Tony Dwyer
- Set Design: John Decker
- Master Carpenter: Joel Richon
- Set Construction: John Decker, Joel Richon, Mark Hamberger, Eric Scerbo, Dave Lashoff, Dan Tobiassen, Daniella Ceus
- Scenic Painter: Regina Holliday
- Set Painting: Betsy Weich
- Set Decorating: Sonya Okin, Joel Richon
- Props Mistress: Sonya Okin
- Lighting Design: Chris Curtis
- Sound Design: Nick Upchurch
- Costume Design: Patsy Di Bella-Kreger
- Hair/Makeup Design: Patsy Di Bella-Kreger, Robin Covington
- Artwork/Program Cover: Audrey Cefelay
- Program Design: Marketa Chromkova
- Photos: Ernie Achenbach (program), Keith Jansen (publicity)
- House Manager: Scott Richards
- Conductor/Keyboard: Valerie A. Higgs
- Woodwind: Eric Alabahin
- Woodwind: Charlie Condon
- Woodwind: Chris Condon
- Trumpet I: Mark Allred
- Trumpet II: Alan Forney
- Trombone I: Steve Ward
- Euphonium: Mark Hamberger
- Guitar: Rick Peralta
- Bass: Tony Aragon
- Percussion: Jim Hofmann:
Disclaimer: Rockville Musical Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review. RMT also purchased advertising on the ShowBizRadio.net web site.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/5807.
Jennifer Gusso has been involved in theatre in the state of Maryland and DC for most of her life. She has acted, directed, choreographed, stage managed, and held a million other odd jobs. She has a B.S. in English from Towson University, and is currently pursuing her Master's Degree to become a Reading Specialist. She is a Maryland State Certified English, Theatre, Elementary, and Mathematics Educator. After teaching English and Drama for many years, she now teaches 6th grade Language Arts at Magnolia Middle School in Harford County, Maryland. She wrote the curriculum currently used in Prince George’s County Public Schools for Drama I and Drama II. She now writes and directs plays and musical for use in church.