The cast of The Pajama Game
(Photo © Joan Marcus)
The cast of The Pajama Game
(Photo © Joan Marcus)
The Roundabout Theatre Company has a history of casting movie and TV stars in its shows, in the hope of selling lots of tickets. Sometimes, these stars also receive critical acclaim. Witness the huzzahs being heaped upon Harry Connick, Jr. for his performance as Sid Sorokin in the revival of The Pajama Game. We happen to think that he's the weakest link in the show, but if casting Connick is what it took to bring this otherwise wonderful production to Broadway, then it's a price we'll happily pay. (We're just glad that we saw Brent Barrett in the role when Encores! presented this show a couple of seasons ago.)

Connick certainly has plenty of sex appeal, but we'd trade that in a New York minute for a brassier performance of "There Once Was a Man" and a less crooner-like take on "Hey, There." Still, director-choreographer Kathleen Marshall has done a clever job of reshaping the show around Connick's strongest attributes. There is, for instance, a smartly staged bit in the "Hernando's Hideaway" scene where Connick plays a piano on wheels as he sings in New Orleans jazz style.

Be that as it may, the real stars of this production are its other leads. Kelli O'Hara shows some real grit as Babe; we've never liked her better than in this performance. Michael McKean is sensational as Hines, and his rendition of "I'll Never Be Jealous Again" with the sassy Roz Ryan is pure Broadway musical comedy magic. Also terrific are Peter Benson as Prez and Megan Lawrence as Gladys performing "Her Is" -- and Lawrence should have a Tony Award nomination locked up for her performance of "Hernando's Hideaway." Between her work in this show and her scene stealing as Lucetta in Two Gentlemen of Verona last summer, this has truly been her season to shine.

The Pajama Game has an exceptional score and a book that is deceptively effective. Let's not forget that this show was originally produced in 1954 and that its pro-union stance was way ahead of its time. It surely influenced mass culture through the brilliant meshing of its politics with joyful entertainment. Indeed, these critics learned about economics not from Lord Keynes but from the song "Seven and a Half Cents!"

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A star of Moscow Cats Theatre
A star of Moscow Cats Theatre
Going to the Dogs

Barbara once wrote a comedy book called Kitty Tricks: 29 Silly Stunts You and Your Cat Can Do Together. We mention this not to sell copies (it's long out of print) but because we just caught up with the Moscow Cats Theatre, which moved uptown last month to the Lamb's Theatre. And we can say without any doubt that the so-called acrobatic feats performed by these cats are as much a joke as was Barbara's book.

What exactly do these felines do during the course of the show? For the most part, they either stay still or jump up, which is not very exciting for 90 minutes. Yes, a couple of the cats perform slightly more elaborate stunts -- but a dog is also on hand, and he does most of those. Isn't that rather an insult in a show called the Moscow Cats Theatre? Worse, the lumbering clown who runs the proceedings is decidedly unappealing.

This has got to be one of the most boring family shows in New York. Unless you simply like looking at pretty tabbies, you and your kids might want to skip it.

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[To contact the Siegels directly, e-mail them at siegels@theatermania.com.]