Magazine article The New Yorker

PAJAMA CONNECTION; THE BOARDS Series: 3/5

Magazine article The New Yorker

PAJAMA CONNECTION; THE BOARDS Series: 3/5

Article excerpt

The actors Harry Connick, Jr., and Michael McKean and the director and choreographer Kathleen Marshall were hanging out the other night in the lobby of the American Airlines Theatre, just before dressing for a preview of the Roundabout's new production of "The Pajama Game," the 1954 musical about workers in a pajama factory who go on strike. Harold Wolpert, the company's managing director, blew in, saw the line at the box office, and rubbed his palms together.

"Our subscribers are very excited," he said. "It turns out everybody you talk to has a 'Pajama Game' connection. They know George Abbott directed the original, with Bob Fosse choreography. Then they saw it in schools. In the past ten years alone, it's been produced in more than eleven hundred schools and in four hundred and fifty community-theatre productions. But I never saw it anywhere until now. Strange."

McKean, who is playing Hines, the factory clock-watcher, regarded him with sympathy. "I did the show in school, Long Island's North Shore High, in 1964," he said.

"Well, a guy in my office, who comes from Pepper Pike, Ohio, saw it when he was in eighth grade, at a local high school," Wolpert said. "It made him determine, then and there, that he was going to come to New York to be in the theatre." He waved and went backstage.

"Mr. Mooney, our North Shore English teacher, was both the director and the choreographer," McKean said. "I auditioned for the part of Hines then. But Mr. Mooney wouldn't give it to me."

Marshall said, "Our leading lady, Kelli O'Hara, auditioned in 1996 for 'The Pajama Game' put on by her university, in Oklahoma City, but she didn't get anything."

McKean went on, "Mr. Mooney said I had to do the number 'Steam Heat,' with John Best and Francine Schutzman."

"You remember their names?" Connick said.

"Of course," McKean said. "Francine Schutzman was the only one who could dance. …

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