Original Broadway Production (1954)
Jerome Robbins was asked to choroegraph the show. He declined but, at least according to some sources, he suggested Bob Fosse for the job. Another version of the story has Fosse’s wife, Joan McCracken, suggesting him. Robbins agreed to take co-directorial credit in exchange for “supervising” the dances, agreeing to be on hand and pitch in if Fosse did not prove up to the job. Although Robbins received no program credit for choreography, it has been rumored that he staged "There Once Was a Man" and "7 1/2 Cents."
Van Johnson and Gordon MacRae were considered for the role of Sid Sorokin. Ralph Meeker was announced for the role but several weeks before rehearsals started, it was announced that the role would instead be played by John Raitt. It has sometimes been written that Meeker started rehearsals and was then replaced because he was not a strong enough singer. It may well be that the role ended up going to Raitt instead of Meeker because Meeker was not a strong singer, but the replacement was announced in the press several weeks before rehearsals started.
Julie Wilson was offered the role of Babe but turned it down to remain in London. She eventually played the role on Broadway as a replacement.
Early in rehearsals, Charlotte Rae was fired and her role was eliminated. George Abbott had fallen in love with the talents of Carol Haney. The role Rae had been playing was combined with Haney's role, making it the major female supporting role.
Opened on Broadway with an advance of $40,000, low even for 1954.
Shirley MacLaine was in the chorus and understudied Carol Haney. On Wednesday, May 26, 1954 (less than two weeks after the opening), Haney broke her ankle, and MacLaine had to go on for her. MacLaine has said that she had to go on for Haney without having ever rehearsed the role. Haney was out of the show for approximately three weeks (although it seems that there may have been performances during this time where Haney went on but MacLaine did at least some of the dancing for her).
On the second night that MacLaine went on as understudy, her performance was seen by Hollywood producer Hal Wallis. She soon signed a five-year contract with Wallis. When Haney returned, MacLaine went back to the chorus, waiting to be called to Hollywood. Two months later, she was still waiting when Haney missed another performance due to laryngitis. Herbert Coleman, a Hollywood assistant director who had worked with Alfred Hitchcock on two of his recent films, saw her in the show at this time. Coleman thought she'd be perfect for Hitchcock's next film (on which he was to be the associate producer). When Hitchcock met her, he agreed that she was perfect for the role. He worked out a deal with Wallis, and MacLaine went to Hollywood to make her first film, Hitchcock's The Trouble With Harry.
Note: MacLaine has told slightly different versions of the story over the years. In one version, she said that Hitchcock saw her in The Pajama Game, but according to several other sources, including Herbert Coleman and MacLaine herself in an interview with Premiere magazine, Hitchcock did not see her in the show.
When the production opened its pre-Broadway tryout in New Haven, there was a preview before opening night. At the time, it was most unusual for there to be any previews during a pre-Broadway tryout.