This August you can watch the Tony Award-winning musical performed by the BA Musical Theatre Class of 2021 in their final RCS performance for free on RCS at Home. Rehearsed, performed and filmed during the pandemic, the show is packed with big musical numbers and dance performances that will have you jumping out your couch as you stream from home this month.
Theatre Director and MA Classical and Contemporary Text graduate (2013), Becky Hope-Palmer led the BA Musical Theatre Class of 2021 through this spectacular musical under Covid-19 restrictions, delivering a fresh take on the show whilst still retaining all the 1950s Golden Age magic with the timeless story of capital vs labour at the heart of it.
We caught up with director, Becky and cast member, co-dance captain/choreographer, Anna Amelia – who shared the role with Zweyla Mitchell dos Santos – to find what we can expect to see from the show and why this production of The Pajama Game shouldn’t be missed…
The Pajama Game is streaming 2-16 August. Tickets are available for free via the RCS Box Office.
About The Pajama Game
Based on Richard Bissell’s novel 7½ Cents written in 1953, the production opens a window on a particular and very exciting moment in time – the war had ended and unions were an integral part of the US workforce and had the power to make real change. The musical was first performed when people needed cheering up after the atrocities of a World War.
Just as fashion has changed in style through time, so have ideas and Becky reflects on how she achieved a new take on this musical.
“It certainly needed a little updating to make it relevant for a contemporary audience!” says Becky who worked with musical director Gavin Mitchell and choreographer Ruth Mills to create a contemporary vibe for the show whilst still retaining the classic, well-known moments of the original. “We wanted to update the feel of the evening for an audience. Gavin is a genius and has made some incredibly subtle and clever changes to the score so you would never know the difference in sound if you weren’t familiar with the musical. The end has had a bit of a facelift to give the story a more contemporary outlook, which I think is the biggest change. The antagonist doesn’t get off so easy.”
Becky states how she loves a challenge and taking on The Pajama Game felt like she was on similar ground after devising a previous musical based in the 1960s – which certainly was good practice for undertaking this new production of The Pajama Game. Rehearsing and performing under Covid-19 restrictions also brought a weighty challenge for the director.
“Staging a 17-strong-cast on a stage, keeping everyone socially distanced to follow the government guidelines has been interesting. Not one I’d jump at again quickly! The cast were all amazing at making this work though and I hope it doesn’t feel too obvious in the final product!” says Becky.
The production is about much more than just the power of unions as Becky goes on to explain: “As a company, we were lucky enough to have some development time separate from show rehearsals to talk through the messages of the play. And I think it’s clear by Hines’ speech what we are trying to convey at the very beginning – ‘It’s about capital and labour, love and lust, men and women, workplace harassment, knives and plenty of beer. All wrapped together with enough dance to keep you happy. It’s also a romance where a woman holds the power. We’ll try and keep it that way.”
Becky spoke highly of the BA Musial Theatre emerging professionals, remarking on their energy, passion and integrity. “It’s wonderful working with performers at the very start of their journey working out their process and how to challenge themselves. They are more willing to take creative risks and try anything you throw at them.”
Cast member Anna, who plays Gladys Hotchkiss – a quick-witted secretary to the factory president – has loved working with Becky. “She gave us such freedom with our choices as actors for each of our characters while also keeping us within the world of the play and of her creative vision. She’s bold in taking text and making creative decisions about the piece that subverts what’s usually expected, to make a social commentary within the show.”
The Pajama Game Choreography
Throughout the production, Anna also worked with professional chorographer Ruth Mills, along with fellow dance captain Zweyla Mitchell dos Santos, and was given the opportunity to work on a number of styles including jazz and tap. In addition, it was also Anna and Zweyla’s role to plan and run the physical warm-ups each morning with her peers.
Anna says “Being involved as a creative in The Pajama Game reminded me of the passion I have for choreographing and teaching. I of course love performing myself, but would love to be on the creative team in the future also. Working with my peers not only taught me to be calm and patient, but more importantly, reminded me of my love of working with young, talented people who are passionate and hardworking. It was a great learning experience and taught me how to balance my time. Furthermore, I feel so grateful to have had the opportunity to dance captain a whole show and to be given the opportunity to learn from such experienced and talented creatives.”
Anna reflects on her time studying at Scotland’s national conservatoire. “I’ve been given the opportunity to explore all avenues of theatre to see where I am most comfortable; from triple threat musical theatre to actor-musicianship, I believe I have truly explored what it means to be an artist within this industry.
“The time and training I have been given at RCS has helped me to be signed by Ark Management, and I can’t wait to start my artistic career with such a caring, lovely agent.
“One of the most special elements of our degree is the incredible staff and creatives we have the pleasure of working with, but also my extremely talented peers from all over the world. Having the opportunities to learn from people from all different walks of life has taught me so much and brought me so much joy for the past three years; I can only thank RCS for bringing us all together!”
Now that she has graduated, Anna intends to pursue a career in musical theatre, “I cannot wait to start this adventure with some amazing friends that I have made at RCS. Aside from this, I hope to continue teaching as this is a passion I have had from a young age; I am currently working towards my Level 4 Teachers with IDTA, and can’t wait to put this into practice when I do.”