At heart, this award-winning musical (which premiered on Broadway in 1954 and is based on Richard Bissell’s novel 7½ Cents) is little more than a love story with an added political twist, but Richard Eyre’s exuberant production (a transfer from Chichester) gives it enough oomph to fill this rather cavernous auditorium.
The workers in busy Midwest pyjama factory Sleep-Tite are about to go on strike because management won’t sanction a pay rise. The dispute brings grievance committee union rep Babe Williams and Sid Sorokin, the new superintendent from Chicago, into conflict – despite their instant mutual attraction.
Of course everything comes out right in the end, via a company picnic, a visit to a night club (cue ‘Hernando’s Hideaway’) and a rift – temporary, of course – between the main protagonists.
Michael Xavier makes a suitably tall, dark and dashing Sid, and has a voice to match, dueting with his office Dictaphone in the melodic Hey There (You With the Stars in your Eyes), whilst Joanna Riding’s Babe is feisty and appropriately hard-edged until she melts in his arms.
Peter Polycarpou has great fun as jealous time-and-motion man Hines (Gary Wilmot takes over in June). And Stephen Mear’s inventively lively choreography – whether for Sid and Babe’s There Once Was A Man or the whole company’s big numbers – keeps this 50’s musical happily buoyant.
When: Until September 13
Where: Shaftesbury Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, WC2H 8DP
Tickets cost £20 – £65. To book, click here