This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001

23Apr/12

ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS

James Corden tries to get ahold of himself in uproarious ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS

Music Box Theatre
239 West 45th St. between Broadway & Eighth Aves.
Through September 2, $66.50 - $196.50
onemantwoguvnorsbroadway.com

In the uproarious British farce One Man, Two Guvnors, James Corden stars as Francis Henshall, a simple, extremely hungry young man who gets himself into the complicated situation of serving as guvnor to two people at the same time in 1963 Brighton. But it’s Corden who has Broadway audiences eating out of the palm of his hand, delivering a riotous, unforgettable performance filled with wild improvisation, wickedly funny pratfalls, glorious wordplay, and slapstick galore. Desperate for some money — and for something to eat — Francis is soon working as a personal manservant to the demanding, upper-crust Stanley Stubbers (Oliver Chris) and local gangster Roscoe/Rachel Brabbe (Jemima Rooper). He gets caught up in some heavy drama as Pauline (Claire Lams) wants to marry her true love, ambitious (over)actor Alan (Daniel Rigby), but her father, Charlie the Duck (Fred Ridgeway), has promised her to Roscoe Crabbe to settle a large debt. Meanwhile, Francis just wants something to eat. Corden (The History Boys, Gavin and Stacey) is masterful as Francis, whether directly addressing the audience (and pulling some members onstage to participate in the frantic madness), devouring a letter, or running between two private rooms, trying to serve meals to both of his guvnors at the same time without them finding out about each other. He displays a good-natured charm and a rapid-fire comedic wit that makes Francis eminently likable no matter how much he screws up, which is a lot. As spectacular as Corden is, Tom Edden nearly steals the show as Alfie, an old, hunched-over waiter who takes quite a licking but somehow keeps on ticking. The first act is one of the funniest on Broadway in quite some time, a nonstop parade of belly laughs that might very well have you falling out of your seat; things are significantly slower in the shorter second act, which concentrates more on the silly plot. The festivities are accompanied by live music by the Craze, a skiffle band that plays original music starting ten minutes before showtime as well as during scene changes and intermission. Written by Richard Bean (Harvest) and directed by Nicholas Hytner (The History Boys, The Madness of King George) of the National Theatre and based on the 1743 commedia dell’arte farce The Servant of Two Masters by Italian playwright Carlo Goldoni, One Man, Two Guvnors is outrageous British farce of the highest order.

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