Sunday, September 1, 2013

Jack Kelly: It's All in the "Game"! :)


In August 1963, Jack Kelly was strutting his stuff as a song-and-dance man in Anderson, Indiana. While JK was hoofing it in the Hoosier state, he also showed off his fashion sense. And, I have the pictures to prove it! :)

While the quality of these photos from my Kellection isn't the best--they are faded with age and look like they were cut from a photo album--they do provide a rare, candid look at JK as he prepares for his role in the musical comedy The Pajama Game at the Geeting Summer Theatre.

This 1963 production of The Pajama Game was presented by the Madison County Dramatic Players, a theater company which exists to this day and is now known as The Mainstage Theatre. Their shows were originally held on land owned by the Geeting family of Anderson. The Geeting "theater" was first a tent (which kept falling down) and later a pole barn. According to a 2009 article about the Players in the Anderson Herald Bulletin, "Cast and audience alike had to contend with stifling heat and humidity, insects, wandering animals and the occasional thunder, lightning and hail. On a tin roof."

In the same article, a Geeting crew member recalled, "At one performance [in the barn], the electricity went out. We were about finished with the play, so we pulled cars up to the building and shined their headlights in. It had canvas sides, so that we finished the play.”

Despite their humble home base, the Players dreamed big, and for a time tried to feature professional actors in their productions. However, they were able to attract only two "name" performers--the ill-fated Frances Farmer and JK--before they ran out of funds. 

But, the Players went all-out with The Pajama Game. Linda J. Alexander notes in A Maverick Life: The Jack Kelly Story that The Pajama Game was the company's "largest cast show" to date (including "twenty-two speaking parts", "a twelve-member chorus" and "six dancers") and that JK was "a local hit" in the popular show.

Indeed, the local paper gave plenty of publicity to the erstwhile Maverick, including a lengthy article which was primarily about his wife, Donna.

In the news clipping below, a jovial JK is shown trying on a jacket he will wear in The Pajama Game:

The caption reads: "TAKES TIME OUT--Jack Kelly took time out from rigorous rehearsal schedules to get outfitted for his role as 'Henzie' in the up coming musical comedy 'Pajama Game' that opens Monday night for a six-day run at the Geeting Summer Theatre. Jay Russell, left, helps 'Bart Maverick' into a sports coat that he will wear in his comedy lead with the Madison County Dramatic Players." 

JK's "comedy lead" in this production of The Pajama Game is actually named "Vernon Hines", who opens the show with the title song. Hines is a time-study man at the "Sleep-Tite" pajama factory in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where the workers are threatening to strike if they don't receive a 7.5 cent raise. "Hinesey" is in love with the factory owner's secretary and becomes very jealous when he suspects her of flirting with the new factory superintendent. 

The Pajama Game originally premiered on Broadway in 1954 and was adapted into a film starring Doris Day and John Raitt in 1957. The show's score includes such now-classic hits as "Hey There", "Steam Heat" and "Hernando's Hideaway". 

"Hines" has several numbers in the show. Unfortunately, we don't have a recording of Jack Kelly's performance in The Pajama Game. But, to give you an idea of what one of "Hinesey's" songs sounded like, here's a video featuring Eddie Foy, Jr. (who played the character in both the Broadway and film versions) singing "Pajama Game/Racing With the Clock" with the ensemble:

And, here are two more shots of JK having a ball as he chooses his character's wardrobe. Below, with Jay Russell: 

And, all by his stylin' self:

Incidentally, in addition to picking out his wardrobe and his "rigorous rehearsal schedules" for The Pajama Game, JK was able to squeeze in some golf during his stay in Anderson. :)

Read more about JK's adventures in summer stock here