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One Man, Two Guvnors

James Corden gives a hilarious performance in Nicholas Hytner's must-see production of Richard Bean's funny-as-can-be farce. logo
Oliver Chris, James Corden, Jemima Rooper
in One Man, Two Guvnors
(© Joan Marcus)
In Broadway's long history, there may have been a comedy as funny as One Man, Two Guvnors, now at the Music Box Theater under Nicholas Hytner's razor-sharp direction, but it's a safe bet there's never been one funnier than Richard Bean's belly-laugh-rich adaptation of Carlo Goldoni's classic Servant of Two Masters.

A large part of the side-splitting result is due to the great James Corden, a Tweedle-dum of a figure who makes a huge splash on the Great White Way as the one man of the title: the down-on-his-luck-and-hungry Francis Henshall who accepts dual positions as flunky to sleek upper-class twit Stanley Stubbers (Oliver Chris) and Rachel Crabbe (Jemima Rooper), who is disguised as her murdered brother Roscoe.

Suffice it to say, the supposed Roscoe's previously pledged promise to marry scrap-metal heiress Pauline Clench (Claire Lams) throws a monkey wrench into Pauline's love for histrionic would-be actor Alan Dangle (Daniel Rigby) and Stanley's passion for the supposedly missing Rachel. The star-crossed lovers are joined in their longings for one another by gofer Henshall's interest in ultra-feminine hip-swayer Dolly (Suzie Toase), the accountant for Pauline's rolling-in-it dad Charlie "The Duck" Clench (Fred Ridgeway).

As imagined by Bean, however, the plot is merely a peg on which to hang a farce in which Corden displays as much as is humanly possible of his enormous talent for taking charge of a stage, including a certain amount of audience participation for which he is supremely prepared.

Moreover, his supporting players -- also imported from the show's original production at London's National Theatre -- prove that one amazing comic turn in no way overshadows anyone else's formidable skills, including Chris' forever supercilious Stubbers and Rigby's constantly overbearing Alan.

Special mention must also go to a Buddy Holly-like group called The Craze, which warms the audience up for the entertainment and keeps it warm-to-sizzling through the many scene changeovers.

And last but not least on the kudos list is Tom Edden as 86-year-old, motor-challenged waiter Alfie, who on his first day, must help deliver meals to the two guvnors. The sequence, over which Corden crackles like a roman candle, is maybe the most sustained laugh-getter in this indelible, must-see production.

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