Riding and Xavier lead Pajama transfer

Published December 16, 2013

Chichester Festival Theatre’s hit musical The Pajama Game will transfer to the West End next May, with Stephen Ward star Joanna Riding set to reprise her role alongside new cast member Michael Xavier in Richard Eyre’s critically acclaimed production.

The classic musical comedy, which was first seen on Broadway in 1954 and is based on Richard Bissell’s novel 7 ½ Cents, will arrive at the Shaftesbury theatre from 1 May (press night 13 May).

Set in 1950s America, The Pajama Game’s charming story takes place at the Sleep-Tite Pajama Factory where a new handsome superintendent Sid Sorokin falls head over heels in love with firebrand Union rep Babe Williams. Sparks fly when the employees are refused a seven and a half cents pay rise, leaving Sid and Babe at odds as the temperature rises.

Boasting a book by legendary theatremaker George Abbott and Bissell, and music by Tony Award winners Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, the production will feature the musical’s hit line-up of songs including Hey There (You With The Stars In Your Eyes), Hernando’s Hideaway and Steam Heat.

Double Olivier Award winner Riding, whose numerous West End credits include starring roles in Guys And Dolls, A Little Night Music, Billy Elliot The Musical and The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg, will once again play the feisty Babe Williams, reuniting with director Eyre and acclaimed choreographer Stephen Mear following their work together on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s latest musical Stephen Ward, which opens later this week and is currently booking to 1 March 2014.

Xavier, who was last seen on the London stage in The Sound Of Music at the Regent’s Park Open Air theatre, will replace original cast member Hadley Fraser in the role of Sid Sorokin. The twice Olivier Award nominated musical theatre star also boasts credits including the alfresco venue’s hit production Into The Woods and West End hits Love Story, Spamalot and The Phantom Of The Opera.

Speaking about the forthcoming musical, which received rave reviews when it opened in April at the regional venue that has seen numerous productions transfer into the West End including Sweeney Todd and Singin’ In The Rain, Eyre commented: “The Pajama Game was the first musical I ever heard, on an album belonging to my sister when I was 14. I had never seen it until I directed it at Chichester. It was a long wait to discover what an entrancing, joyful, tuneful and sharp show it was.”

Further casting for the show, which is set to run until 13 September, is yet to be announced. It will replace Tim Rice’s latest musical venture, From Here To Eternity, at the Shaftesbury theatre when the Second World War-set show comes to a close on 26 April.

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"I had never seen it until I directed it at Chichester. It was a long wait to discover what an entrancing, joyful, tuneful and sharp show it was.”