The late Richard Adler (far right) with Sheldon Harnick (far left) and Richard Rodgers (center) at a rehearsal of "Rex" in 1976. Billy Rose Theatre Division.
Legendary Broadway composer and lyricist Richard Adler passed away this year on June 21st. His seamless partnership with friend and composer Jerry Ross in the 1950s led to the hit musical scores and lyrics for The Pajama Game in its original Broadway run in 1954. Directed by George Abbott and Jerome Robbins, the show went on to win a Tony Award for best musical.
Fast forward to 2006, and we find Broadway director and choreographer Kathleen Marshall guiding and choreographing a 21st century revival of The Pajama Game with the Roundabout Theatre Company. Marshall researched the first 1954 production, and immediately put together what she described as a "first-class" team of David Chase as Vocal and Dance Arranger, and the artistic trio of Peter Kaczorowski for Lighting Design, Derek McLane for Scenic Design, and Martin Pakledinaz for costume design.
Marshall's The Pajama Game went on to received a Tony award for Best Revival of a Musical, and Pakledinaz was nominated for the fifth time for Best Costume Design. Both lead actors in the show, Kelli O'hara and Harry Connick Jr., also earned Tony nominations for their turns as Babe Williams and Sid Sorokin.
The Pajama Game focuses on a union dispute at the Sleep Tite Pajamas factory in the 1950s. Babe, the confident head of the workers' Grievance Committee, attracts the attention of the company's handsome superintendant, Sid Sorokin.
Costume designer Martin Pakledinaz took into consideration the economic situation of the working class characters, and avoided high fashion inspiration from the period. Rather, the designer sought out contemporary Sears and Spiegel catalogues, as well as documentary photographs that depicted working people.
Seen above and below are photocopied images from a 1950s Sears catalog with Pakledinaz’s annotations and comments. These were found among the designer’s research materials for The Pajama Game, along with fabric swatches and simple pencil sketches.
"There's a nobility and a joy to theses characters, so you want to study each personality carefully" Pakledinaz said in a 2006 interview the Roundabout Theatre Company's publication Upstage. He also based his costume design for each character on the actors' own attributes as well. Pakledinaz said, of all the tasks involved with costuming the show, "my favorite is just picking the fabric because it is fun to put together a collection of prints and patterns like a big jigsaw puzzle."
Set in the 1950's, Pakledinaz costumes the cast in bright stripes and pastels conveying an energetic feeling to the production. The designer said "even though we don't cartoon the clothes, we want to 'lift' them a bit, because it is a musical, and we want it to look at home onstage, and the scenery is theatrical as well."
The trouble with using authentic clothing produced in the 1950s was that, as Pakledinaz stated "it is more charming up close than from a distance." The designer's challenge was to find fabrics that appeared authentic from a distance and correctly convey the fifties to an audience in a theater. "Finding fabrics that look like they're from the 50's and look correct can be one of our trickier problems."
Seen below are designs for the vibrant, celebratory "Hernando's Hideaway" musical sequence in Act 2, Scene 5. Hernando's Hideaway was one of a few scenes in The Pajama Game that involved dancing. Pakledinaz certainly kept this in mind as he designed for the cast. "You have to make sure that the costumes feel comfortable and strong on them, and that the shoes are also comfortable and supportive..." It was also essential that the cast "...feel safe in the clothes, so that they can forget about them."
Fitting photo of actor Harry Connick Jr. in costume for "Hernando's Hideaway" musical number. Billy Rose Theatre Division.
Costume design by Martin Pakledinaz for Harry Connick Jr. in "Hernando's Hideaway" number from Act 2, Scene 5 of "The Pajama Game." Billy Rose Theatre Division.Fabric swatches for Harry Connick Jr.'s costume in "Hernando's Hideaway." Billy Rose Theatre Division.
The costume design for Harry Connick Jr. (above) in the "Hernando's Hideaway" musical number features a bright tuxedo with purple patterned jacket, vest and trousers.
Fitting photo of actress Megan Lawrence in costume for "Hernando's Hideaway" musical number. Billy Rose Theatre Division.
Costume design by Martin Pakledinaz for Megan Lawrence as Gladys in the "Hernando's Hideaway" number, Act 2, Scene 5 of "The Pajama Game." Billy Rose Theatre Division.
Fabric swatches for Megan Lawrence's costume in "Hernando's Hideaway." Billy Rose Theatre Division.Above is Pakledinaz's design for Megan Lawrence as Gladys during the "Hernando's Hideaway" musical sequence. Pakledinaz said of the energetic, no-nonsense character played by Lawrence, "Gladys is sexy, but she is also management, so her clothes have to look a bit more upscale..." The costume features an iridescent fuchsia taffeta dress, fitted in a mermaid silhouette and accented with purple sequins and black tulle and net petticoats.
In The Pajama Game, Martin Pakledinaz sought to costume the cast in a cohesive, energetic way, while still highlighting the personalities of each actor and their characters. Every Broadway cast needed to be a balanced group of strengths, and as Pakledinaz said, "They need to be independent, and yet work together, like in any community."
- Roundabout Theatre Company, "The Costume Game," Upstage Magazine, Winter/Spring 2006, 10-11.
- John Istel et al., Front & Center: The Magazine of the Roundabout Theatre Company, Volume 1, Issue 1, Winter 2006.
Coming next week...
Costumes by Martin Pakledinaz for Kiss Me Kate (2000) starring Marin Mazzie and Brian Stokes Mitchell.
For contact info and to learn more, please visit the Billy Rose Theatre Division at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.