Sunday, July 30, 2006
The Suburban Pajama Game
Last year's "Norma" at the San Francisco Opera featured a dozen supernumeraries running around in thongs as Celtic Warriors who painted each other blue and smeared stage blood all over their faces when they weren't pointing wooden spears at the tenor.
The rehearsals turned out to be on weekdays in the Presidio, which forced a number of guys who were originally cast to drop out, and there was literally a last-minute scramble for bodies.
One of the happiest additions to the cast turned out to be an 18-year-old from the East Bay town of Lafayette, Kurt Krikorian, who was funny, enthusiastic and who actually looked like a young warrior.
So when it was announced that he was playing the lead in a summer teen theatre production of "The Pajama Game" at Diablo Valley Community College in Pleasant Hill, a trio of us from San Francisco decided to check the production out.
Though our presence as three old urban homos in a sea of surburban families stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb, we didn't feel that out of place.
The theater was filled with Thespians, after all.
Possibly because there was so much free labor with the dozens of teenagers that were part of the troupe, the scale of the production was rather astonishing.
For $13, the audience was treated to a cast of about 50 players, along with major set changes, from the pajama factory floor to Hernando's Hideaway...
...and the costumes, wigs and set pieces were all at a level more professional looking than many adult Bay Area troupes charging three times the amount.
The only serious criticism of the staging was that the big hole for the conductor and a subterranean band of seven musicians near the front of the stage looked so perilous for the many dancers and singers that we spent the entire show terrified that somebody was going to plunge head-first into the orchestra pit.
The huge cast was enormously talented, and in a few cases more than that.
Our Celtic Warrior, Kurt, was a completely credible Handsome Leading Man and his Babe, Riley Krull, was a good singer and actress besides.
There are a couple of featured comic roles in "The Pajama Game" that are usually big bores: Hines, the Time Efficiency Expert, and Prez, the Idiotic Philandering Union president. In the former role, Jack Sale was so good and so funny he threatened to walk off with the production.
Mario Jose as Prez was a large funnyman who kept inventing so many odd bits of business you couldn't take your eyes off of him, and he made some very tired old bits of humor fresh again.
In fact, the youthful energy made the creaky old 1954 musical feel mostly new and vibrant, which was quite an achievement.
There are a handful of performances next week, and I would highly recommend seeing one. Click here to get to a website with more info.
After the show, there was an "Opening Night Gala" where the entire cast mingled with their friends and family in the lobby while still dressed in their final costume, which were pajamas.
Kurt's mom was there, literally beaming with pride and pleasure...
...while Kurt clowned with Jack Sale for the paparazzi.