I had occasion the other day to think about the classic number “Steam Heat” from The Pajama Game. Choreographed by Bob Fosse, it epitomizes his style — the hat roll-ups, the smooth bow-legged movement. It’s also compelling evidence for the theory a coworker shared with me years ago that women in musical theatre “get all the good stuff.”
In the show, Gladys performs the routine with “the boys from the cutting room floor” at a union meeting. Carol Haney originated the role of Gladys on stage and also played her in the 1957 film version. Haney later moved on to choreography. She died at 39, shortly after completing work on Funny Girl.
Haney’s understudy was Shirley MacLaine, who played Gladys for months when Haney was injured. This would prove to be her big break.
“Steam Heat” was part of the 1999 musical revue Fosse, Ann Reinking’s tribute to the late choreographer. This is a clip of Meg Gillentine performing the number for Dance in America: From Broadway: “Fosse” on PBS, which is available on DVD,
And here’s the number in Hungarian, which I think is fitting after having spent time in Budapest’s thermal baths.