Taking the romantic life of two at-feud pajama-making factory workers and bringing that life to campus is what the Arizona Repertory Theatre does in its final show of the season: a light-hearted musical called “The Pajama Game.”
Based on the novel “7 ½ Cents” by Richard Bissell, this show combines comedy, integrity and an enthralling love story that will leave viewers with a feel-good sentiment, as well as catchy songs stuck in their heads.
The show a features David vs. Goliath conflict: the control big businesses have over workers. When pajama-making factory workers don’t receive their hard-earned raise, strikes and slow-downs ensue.
Factory worker Babe and her lover, new factory superintendent Sid, find themselves questioning their relationship amid the chaos of the wage unfairness.
The musical features students such as seniors Matthew Osvog and Marissa Munter.
Osvog, who plays Sid, captures the special personality of a leader in the show. He adds to his position by forming a strong, charismatic character that is quite easy to fall in love with.
Babe, played by Munter, feels just the same. As the two characters form their somewhat complicated relationship, they captivate audiences with heartfelt ballads and inspiring independence.
All of these plotlines are further enhanced by their musical accompaniment and choreography.
Christie Kerr is the choreographer for this musical, as well as an assistant professor in the University of Arizona School of Theatre, Film and Television.
Kerr taught at the Musical Theatre Department at Columbia College in Chicago and other various theaters and studios throughout the United States as a director, choreographer, teacher and performer.
“I’d probably say I’ve been consistently involved in this industry for about 25 to 30 years,” Kerr said.
A great deal of experience is needed for constructing such productions, and musicals are even more challenging, according to Kerr.
“I really just try to focus on the storytelling aspect to enhance the show,” Kerr said.
Creating choreography that is entertaining but also flows with the plotline is a big, collaborative, project.
“The director and I get together to find out who the characters really are,” Kerr said. “I also make sure to work with the actors themselves to see what direction they’re taking their character in.”
Whether the characters are quirky, serious or flirtatious, all of these characteristics are incorporated into their dances. Establishing character-specific dance moves that can be easily translated to audiences is crucial in plot continuity, according to Kerr.
Working with students on their characters is both fun and rewarding to Kerr.
“The kids are great, and I have a lot of them in class as students,” Kerr said.
Being able to pick up on what they’re struggling with helps speed up the revision process. It also encourages the actors to be proactive in their character development.
“They’re training to be professionals, so they’re typically very hungry for new information and always asking questions,” Kerr said.
Conforming to unusual rehearsal schedules is also a factor students had to work with for this show. Spring break came at a weird spot, according to Kerr.
On a six-week rehearsal schedule, Mondays through Fridays, things can get pretty hectic. Coming in at around 20 hours a week, plenty of commitment is needed from those working on the show.
“We have tech rehearsals for 12 hours on Saturdays, and even though they can get pretty tedious, I love seeing it all come together,” Kerr said.
Setting lights, configuring spacing and getting all the elements of the costumes and set pieces together is imperative to running a smooth show.
The show will run until April 29 and includes Sunday matinés, as well as pre- and post-show discussions.
There is a special benefit performance of “The Pajama Game” Friday, April 27 at 7:30 p.m. All ticket sale proceeds from this performance go to the School of Theatre, Film and Television Theatre Fund for Excellence.
The benefit performance sponsor is Tubac Golf Resort and Spa. Patrons who purchase a ticket to this performance are entered to win a gift certificate for a one-night stay for two in a luxurious suite and a gift certificate for one round of golf for two at the Tubac Golf Resort and Spa.
“The most rewarding part for me is seeing everything up when it’s all finished and done,” Kerr said. “Seeing it all come together and seeing the students grow is the best part.”
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