By John Michael Howson, Peter Pinne and Ashley Irwin. Choreography and direction by Tony Bartuccio. Gold Coast Arts Centre (Qld). September 2 - 10, 2010.

This show sizzles. It burst onto the Gold Coast stage the way Bernie Elsey’s original Pyjama Parties splashed across 1960s media: youthful abandon, provocative with innuendo, energy, and sheer joy. The writers captured this mood and the period, and the players dragged us kicking and writhing into that era.

It’s a big cast: eighteen principals, show band of twelve, seven backing booth singers, and a host of stage extras.

The simple plot embraces three generations. Our focus is a trio of girls from conservative Gympie who meet three guys from Melbourne, and their generation who frequent the pyjama parties. They carried the show.

The parents’ generation were represented by guest artists: Peter Lowrey as Surfers’ tourism entrepreneur Wayne; Jane Scali who played singer Diana, trying to find a professional niche in Surfers; Donna Lee (Myra, mum of the Gympie girl splashed topless across the national press) and Terry Stewart (father of the boy included in some of those shots). A memorable moment of the show was Donna and Terry’s rendition of “Where Did We Go Wrong?” written especially for this show.

Lastly, the grandparent’s generation: Steven Tandy as Bruce Large – an amalgam of ageing mayor Bruce Small who passionately promoted Surfers, and developers who rushed to provide highrise accommodation for the residential insurgence. Tandy gave historical significance to the writers' original songs I’ll Turn Surfers into Paradise and Queensland.

But my deathless quote from Pyjamas comes from the other song they wrote:

“It’s a lovely place to die.”

Declan McGonagle provided impressive audiovisual back projections of Surfers localities from 1960s to today to complement Michael Rumpf’s simple and very practical design.

Tony Bartuccio’s choreography incorporated dance styles this cast rejoiced in:  The Frug, surfin’ styles, Watusi, hitch hiker, mashed potato, shimmy shake, hand jive … He had the whole stage awash with human turbulence.

By the end, the audience was too.

Jay McKee

Our earlier coverage.

Read our interview with writers John Michael Howson and Peter Pinne in the current print edition of Stage Whispers - more details.


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