Pompadour jutting like the deck of an aircraft carrier, Harry Connick Jr. — toned, tanned, and tightly wound — takes the stage. The erstwhile ivory-tickler is here to croon a suitable ”Hey There” and soft-sell a very dated musical to a crowd that (presumably) wasn’t around for the 1954 original. This is his mission, but Connick never chooses to accept it. And neither do we.
My prediction: This second Broadway revival of The Pajama Game will (and should) be its last. Making musical comedy out of a garment workers’ strike might’ve seemed just short of goofy in the ’50s; today, it’s morbidly ridiculous. We now know where this story ends: in China, or on aisle 792 of Wal-Mart, take your pick. Yet here’s Pajama, fomenting nostalgia for something no one outside of a presidential primary seems urgently nostalgic about: American manufacturing. ”Come on, union,” hiss the hotsy-totsy hoofers of ”Steam Heat,” ”get hot!” Crowds clad in Cambodian-made couture applaud warmly.
Luckily, none of this stops Pajama‘s poppin’ chorus from blowing your orphan-woven pants off. Director-choreographer Kathleen Marshall puts her multitalented ensemble through its paces; her shapes and formations are vividly alive. The supporting cast — led by Peter Benson, Joyce Chittick, and the always-sensational Megan Lawrence as long-suffering secretary Gladys — converts sexual repression into dizzy lift, in the grand Broadway tradition.
That’s fortunate, because the leads never quite take flight. Connick, as hunky floor supervisor Sid Sorokin, simply refuses to own the room, and those silky Sinatran solos sound Botoxed. He’s going for ”sexy dangerous,” but his stiff, sullen Sorokin comes off as a pin-up fit for a post-office wall. Only in the raucous ”Hernando’s Hideaway” does he come alive — at the piano. As his conflicted union-honcho love interest, Kelli O’Hara (The Light in the Piazza) is all precision and no heat. And Michael McKean, as the jealous, knife-throwing efficiency expert Hines, looks a little bored. Like the rest of us, he’s probably marking time until the next chorus number.