Though it used to be said that Broadway musicals (some of them, anyway) were intended for "the tired businessman," they were not usually about business until The Pajama Game. And not only was the show set in a factory, the story also revolved around a labor dispute, not, you might have thought, the sort of thing a tired businessman would want to watch after a hard day. But the show managed to poke fun lightly at its subject matter while actually focusing on a traditional romantic plot (the man was part of management, the woman part of labor), and, most important, it boasted a frisky score by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, a young songwriting team making a transition from Tin Pan Alley (they had written "Rags to Riches" for Tony Bennett) to the musical theater. They brought with them a knack for the kind of novelty material that was finding success in the pop music market. For example, "There Once Was a Man," a love duet for the two leads, was an up-tempo, Western-styled romp of the kind associated with Frankie Laine rather than a tame ballad. Adler and Ross could write more conventional show music fare in the Rodgers and Hammerstein mold, such as "A New Town Is a Blue Town" and "I'm Not at All in Love," and even introduce new wrinkles to it, but they excelled at witty numbers like "I'll Never Be Jealous Again" and "Think of the Time I Save," both well-delivered by Eddie Foy, Jr. And, not surprisingly, they also wrote some hits. Archie Bleyer was in the charts within two weeks of the May 13, 1954 opening with "Hernando's Hideaway," and Patti Page soon followed with "Steam Heat." Both of those songs reached the Top Ten, but Rosemary Clooney did even better later in the summer with "Hey There," which went to Number One in September. (Andrew Vélez's liner notes to the 2000 reissue unquestioningly quote producer Hal Prince's erroneous assertion that the record topped the charts before the opening.)
John Raitt was an established Broadway leading man still best known for 1945's Carousel, and he made for a strong romantic presence in the role of Sid Sorokin, the newly appointed company executive. Janis Paige was less experienced onstage, but threw herself into the role of Babe Williams, the labor representative with whom he tangles. But the real surprise of the cast was dancer-singer Carol Haney, who made a strong impression with "Steam Heat" and "Hernando's Hideaway." It says a lot about the overall quality of the cast that the film version retained nearly all the principal characters, only replacing Paige with the more bankable Doris Day.
Despite the novelty quality of some of the material, The Pajama Game retained its freshness over the decades, and the Original Broadway Cast Recording remained the recording to own. The CD reissue released on May 30, 2000 added nine minutes of previously unreleased material, including the brief number "Sleep Tite" and a portion of the radio series Stage Struck, recorded while the show was previewing in Boston. On this piece Mike Wallace interviewed Jerry Ross, who obligingly played piano while John Raitt sang "The World Around Us," a romantic ballad that would be cut just after the Broadway opening and not recorded for the cast album. Also included was a version of "There Once Was a Man," as well as Richard Adler singing "Hernando's Hideaway."