BMOS Musical Theatre Company returns to The Alexandra stage to bring to life Guys and Dolls, a fantastic and funny musical story of gambling, luck and love under the bright lights of Broadway. I had the opportunity to speak to BMOS member Patrick Pryce who is playing Nathan Detroit.
Tell us more about the show!
Guys and Dolls is the classic 1950’s musical, made famous by the film starring Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra. It’s all about a gangster called Nathan Detroit who is trying to run an illegal crap game for some dodgy characters in New York, and he’s got to find a venue but he needs $1,000 but he’s broke. He’s constantly being chased by his fiancé of 14 years, Adelaide, to get married. He comes up with a scheme to bet a high rolling gambler – Sky Masterson – $1,000 to raise this money that he needs. He bet’s Sky that he can’t take a girl from the Salvation Army, Sergeant Sarah Brown, to Havana in Cuba. The hard-nosed, high-flying Masterson does take her to Havana by tricking her in saying that he will bring some sinners to her prayer meeting, but he falls in love.
The thing with Guys and Dolls is that the show is hilarious – it’s zany, funny, it’s got all the magic numbers like Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat, Luck Be a Lady, If I Were a Bell, it’s amazing.
You play Nathan Detroit in the show. On screen the role is made famous by Frank Sinatra, but on stage it’s Nathan Lane.
Nathan Lane is one of my heroes. I play it much more like Nathan Lane – I don’t do it exactly like him but I have picked up some ideas from him. To me he’s the perfect Nathan Detroit.
How did you prepare for such an iconic role?
I read the script and try and find things in the script. I’m trying to play a New York Jewish character, and in different parts of the script I’m picking up on different things. In one part he’s afraid of his fiancé Adelaide, so I’m doing a bit of Stan Laurel, but there’s also a bit of Goodfella’s / Donnie Brasco to it, so there’s a real melting pot. Hopefully I’ve come up with my own way of playing it – there’s a proper New York accent.
The director is great at giving me tips too. I’m not a classically trained actor, I’m just an amateur having a go, so I try and pick up bits from everywhere really and hope that the finished result is a good one!
How did you get into acting?
I did a little bit at school – I did a couple of shows when I was in the latter part of high school, and then 11 years ago there’s a local DJ called Ed James (a DJ on Heart FM), and I became a drinking buddy with him. He put on Facebook that the Birmingham musical Wallop Mrs Cox was going to be put on and they were looking for people to audition, and no experience necessary. I thought “I’d love to do that.” I went down and sang ‘On The Street Where You Live’ from My Fair Lady, and I didn’t even know it was from My Fair Lady, I just knew that it was a song my dad used to play in the car when I was little. I ended up getting a part – I played Horace Cox in that one – and then I was hooked and have done it ever since. I played Benny in Guys and Dolls in 2011 with another company, Bournville Musical Theatre, but mainly I’ve been BMOS since 2010.
What does your rehearsal schedule look like?
We rehearse for the best part of six months. We started in January, one night a week with group singing and learning the songs and then some choreography, then in April we do the blocking, then we move to two rehearsals a week, and we’ve been doing three rehearsals a week. We try and get it to a professional standard and have a strong chorus.
What is the best part of being involved in BMOS?
It’s the most fun you can have with your clothes on! You’ve got a room full of show offs, and it’s the ability to express yourself, to sing a song. Singing harmonies in a group is awesome – it’s a fantastic feeling! You’ve got the elements of group singing, the opportunity to act. We get to play at a professional three-tiered theatre, where touring companies are playing. I went to see Chicago at the Alexandra Theatre with a stellar cast, and they used the same dressing rooms we are, we’ve got a 16 piece orchestra. We rehearse for 6 months and then on Sunday morning we go into the theatre with the orchestra and you go from black and white to colour. It’s so emotional, and it’s going to be even more emotional after having several years off. You’re standing on stage with the audience when the overture starts and the hair stands up on the back of the neck and it’s awesome.
You’ve already said that Nathan Lane is one of your idols. Who else do you like to watch?
It’s the shows rather than the people. I love The Producers, Guys and Dolls, My Fair Lady, Blood Brothers, Les Mis… I’m a bit more traditional than some of the younger ones in the company – they like the newer ones like Come From Away and Waitress, but I prefer the more classic shows.
What would be the ultimate role?
Nathan Detroit or Alfred P. Doolittle of which I’ve played both. I only get one song as Nathan as I wanted to play the romantic lead.
You spend your acting life playing other people on stage. If a musical was made about your life, who would be the best person to play you?
Hugh Jackman. He’s about the right age.
A friend of mine went to drama school and once said that he spent an entire day pretending to be an egg frying in a pan. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve had to do?
It’s not me, but we did Carousel a few years ago a character gets killed and turns into a ghost so his body has to disappear. One of our members rarely performs but does backstage, and his one role was to come on stage and be a dead body for about thirty seconds, and then roll off and walk off again, that was really funny.
Birmingham has such a large cohort of young performers. On an amateur and professional scale, what’s the best advice you have for young people who want to get into the industry?
On an amateur level, if you have some talent come and join BMOS – there’s lots of opportunities for shows next year. In terms of the professional world I would say be yourself. I think everyone thinks you need to be a good-looking, skinny dancer but the industry needs all shapes, sizes and ages, so just be yourself. Work hard and be humble, don’t think that it’s all about you. The biggest asset is to be easy to work with. If you’re absolutely brilliant but a pain in the arse people will soon go off you. I would much rather work with people who are nice, easy to get on with who are coachable and will listen to direction. Humility and being a team player is a big thing.