CFT’s Guys & Dolls heads for Southampton

Guys & Dolls
Guys & Dolls

Jack Edwards was in Mack and Mabel at Chichester Festival Theatre last year alongside Michael Ball; before that, he was on the CFT stage in Amadeus.

Now he is catching up with another Chichester Festival Theatre production, this time on the road, Guys and Dolls at Southampton’s Mayflower Theatre from May 17-21.

Portchester-based Jack is playing Nicely Nicely Johnson in the joyous and vibrant celebration of Prohibition-era New York, which premiered on Broadway in 1950 and captured the optimism and energy of post-World War Two America.

For Jack, it’s a rare chance to take a second look at a part.

“I have done Guys and Dolls before. It was my first West End part when I was 29, nine, nearly ten years ago. I took over in the February of that year. I was asked to audition. I was in panto, and the casting director asked me to come and audition for Nicely. I got the job on new Year’s Eve, and I did three months before it sadly closed. But it had done two and a half years by then.

“But it was one of those times in my life when I thought I didn’t really have a chance to get into the role. To be playing it again now, ten years later, feels like I am ready. I am not saying that I wasn’t ready then, but now I am the right age, nearly 40. I know a lot of directors that don’t necessarily like to cast somebody that has already played the role before because they will have specific ideas about it, but, to be honest, I don’t really remember that much about it. It was all such a blur, my first West-End job. It was all so exciting and such a fantastic production. And actually, it was very different to the production now. This one has got a bit of a cartoon-strip feeling. It is very bright and colourful, and there is a huge wall of posters. You really get the impression of the hustle and bustle of Broadway. It’s a great production with a great cast.”

The show is the tale of Nathan Detroit, a man who is desperate: he needs money for an

illegal dice game, and he needs it fast. Not to mention a 14-year engagement with nightclub singer Miss Adelaide, whose patience is finally running out. Enter notorious gambler Sky Masterson, a guy who can never turn down a bet, and straight-laced missionary Sarah Brown, a doll with a heart of ice. Nathan’s wager is that Sky has to romance Sarah by taking her to Havana for dinner, and in return he’ll provide a dozen ‘sinners’ for Sarah’s mission. Surely this is one bet Nathan absolutely can’t lose?

As for Nicely Nicely, as Jack says: “He is a nice chap! He loves everybody. He gets wrapped up in the difficult situations of the crap game, and he just wants to make sure that everything is alright. He sometimes gets things wrong, but really, actually he is just interested in food. He is a bit of a lovable rogue. I think people warm to him straightaway, and also you have got the joy of Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ The Boat. It’s very rare that you get a huge company number that you are at the front of. It’s just fantastic. It comes at the end of the show, and you know the audience are waiting for it because it is such a popular show. When it starts you can sense the audience thinking ‘Here is the big number!’ They know it is coming. It’s just incredible. We have got two reprises.

“But also for me, it is just so exciting coming to Southampton. I did Oliver! there. It’s a massive venue. I think it was an old cinema, but it’s just lovely – and not far from home!”

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