This zany British import comes our way via 1960’s Brighton, England via Carlo Goldoni’s The Servant of Two Masters’ 1740’s Venice. This new, freely adapted comedy by Richard Bean – ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS, has arrived in New York at The Music Box Theatre starring a first class clown – James Corden – a charming, chubby, ravenous young man attempting to hold down two jobs, serving two disparate people simultaneously with a bit of Oliver Hardy thrown in for good measure. In this evening of snappy chatter and songs all havoc breaks loose.
Warming up the audience for the evenings stylized lunacy are four young guys comprising a band aptly named “The Craze” – Jason Rabinowitz, Austin Moorhead, Charlie Rosen & Jacob Colin Cohen. Dressed in eggplant hued suits of the sixties they are a cross between The Beatles and Buddy Holly. They sing songs by Grant Olding, play various instruments (including a washboard) and entertain during the scene changes – which give the actors a chance to catch their breath.
Nicholas Hytner has been given a comic regiment to command. And he commands his players with saber sharp precision aided by Cal McCrystal who is credited as “Physical Comedy Director” – could this be a new catagory for award nominees? It should be. The “physical comedy” is executed with perfection at break neck speed. Comic timing is everything with this stage full of hams.
Pratfalls. Chases. Running gags. Groaners. Asides to the audience. Audience participation. And groin grabbing. A combination of Monty Python, Dame Edna, The Ed Sullivan Variety Show, Burlesque, and Commedia dell’Arte make ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS a delirious, dopey and delightful cartoon comedy served up on a silver platter.
The piece de resistance is a comic banquet where our hero Francis Henshall (James Corden) serves his two employers – Stanley Stubbers (Oliver Chris) – a guy with boarding school manners who is on the lam and in love with the missing Rachael Crabbe (Jemima Rooper) who is disguised as her twin brother Roscoe who was supposed to marry prone to pout Pauline (Claire Lams) – only he was murdered. Pauline is in love with Alan the would be oh so serious actor (Daniel Rigby) whose seriousness will have you howling and is about to be engaged when Roscoe (Rachael) shows up.
The fantastic Tom Edden is 87 year old Alfie, a disabled waiter with a new pacemaker who helps in serving the seven course meal and is an absolute hoot as he trudges up the stairs only to fall repeatedly down them. His shaking plates and platters and attempting to open a bottle of wine are comedic highlights.
The other members of this terrific ensemble all seem to have been cast from the local loony asylum and add greatly to the organized mayhem.
Our hero does have another interest besides food and that is Dolly (a spunky and saucy Suzie Toase) – the flirtatious bookkeeper of Pauline’s dad Charlie “the Duck” Clench (Fred Ridgeway) who winds up spending a lot of money to make for a happy ending.
It’s a happy go lucky, hugely entertaining show that runs out of steam if not comic ideas as the evening progresses. It’s impossible to top that Banquet Scene in Act I. But the performances by one and all are exceptional – especially that of the adorable James Corden who is a master of his art of acting, improvisation, physical comedy and the quick ad lib that keeps the audience doubled over with laughter.
www.onemantwoguvnorsbroadway.com Photos: Joan Marcus
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