During the 1920s and 1930s revue was, perhaps, the most popular theatrical entertainment on the London stage.
Throughout the decade, when he wasn’t playing golf or cricket, Jack McNaughton worked mostly in revue and musical theatre. Throughout the 1920s he appeared in revues including C.O.D, Ups-a- Daisy and Big Fleas, in which he acted comic parts, danced, sang and played the ukulele, touring up and down the UK.
Some of his reviews were pretty good. In its review of Ups-a- Daisy on 14 January 1929 the Hull Daily Mail described Jack as a ‘good vocalist and expert player of the ukulele.’ Ups-a-Daisy was presented by Harry Slingsby and starred comedian Billy Caryll supported by Jack; 12 dancing beauties, Pat Treacey, Maeder and Madova, Lloyd Brothers, Reg Morgan, Nina Crossley, Charles Weaver and Hilda Mundy.
Ups-a-Daisy followed Jack’s performances in C.O.D a couple of years earlier. C.O.D was performed at The Duke of York’s Theatre, St Martin’s Lane, London. Opening on 14 Apr 1927 it ran for 40 performances, closing on 14 May 1927. Jack was engaged on a salary of £5 per week – around £220 in today’s money – not a bad wack for someone in his early 20s at that time.
C.O.D was presented by Archibald de Bear and featured incidental music by Frederick Chappelle; dances and ensembles by J. W. Jackson with comedy scenes arranged by Reginald Bach and scenery by Reginald Pember.
The cast was: J. Robert Hale, Ann Penn, Doris Bransgrove, Basil Howes, Jack McNaughton, Betty Chester, Rene Lemoine, Foster Richardson, Muriel Elva, Charles Heslop, Betty Schuster, Honor Milton, Cyril Smith, Jackson’s Dancers and Jack’s cousin Polly Ward.
The revue burlesqued Abie’s Irish Rose under the title Rosie’s Irish Abe and included a potted version of The Desert Song. The revue was condensed after the opening night because the programme was over 30 minutes too long according to The Era. The paper reported that box office indications were that the show was a great success.
The Stage cited Polly as one of the highlights of the opening performance: ‘As it was, a performance that should have been considerably more exhilarating, and in which funny lines were very rare indeed, and comical situations seemed to hang fire, had at least three well-applauded features that enlivened the frequent gloom…the second a pathetic little telephone scene in which Miss Polly Ward, as a servant girl, informs her sailor lover, on his last night ashore, that she “can’t come out tonight.”’
The Stage’s critic also comments on the burlesques: ‘The most successful of the present burlesques is of Edgar Wallace’s The Ringer. This, entitled The Wringer, has been written by Mr Wallace himself and is merrily rattled through by Messrs Cyril Smith and Jack McNaughton, in addition to the three above named principals (Robert Hale, Betty Chester and Charles Heslop)’.