One Man, Two Guvnors

  • Our critic's rating:
    April 1, 2012
    Review by:
    Tulis McCall

    (Review by Tulis McCall)

    Oh my, my, my. There is Joy in Mudville once again. And more than that, there are moments in this play that are so funny you don’t just laugh, you bark.

    There are a few things at which the Brits Excel. Tea, of course, but you have to be over there for it to taste right. The other is humor, and that one is exportable. I’m talking that stupid kind of humor. That door opening stage right while door closes stage left humor (the kind that Lucy tried to make her own). I’m talking the humor where the main character is off on an adventure of ludicrous proportions and decides to include us in on all his secrets, whether we like it or not. Of course this confidence sharing strategy is picked up by a few other characters as well who share the same philosophy.

    In this case we like it. We like it a lot.

    When the leading man with the plummy voice (Oliver Chris as Stanley Stubbers) receives the news that the local pub also served food (in 1963 Brighton), he replies “Buzz-wam, whoever thought of that? Wrap his balls in bacon and send him to the nurse!” whereupon the gentleman in front of me three seats to my left laughed so hard that his head snapped fore and aft like a hand puppet operated by an amateur.

    James Cordon as Francis Henshall – the MAN - does everything; he toys with the audience, deceives his employers and pursues a buxom woman like a puppy goes after a bone. As a young man washed up on the shore in downtown Brighton, he is on the look out for a meal – he has to keep his fat up – which means he needs a few bob with which to buy it. He accepts a position with two different men, the aforementioned Stubbers and Roscoe Crabbe. The fly in the ointment is that Roscoe is actually his sister, Rachel in disguise, and Rachel is in love with Stanley who has, incidentally, killed her brother Roscoe. These two star crossed lovers are frantic to find one another, but their common man Frances does everything he can to keep them apart so that his employment will remain steady.

    Mixed in here is also the nearly fatal love story of Pauline Clench a sweet dim bulb who is in love with the world’s worst actor, Alan Dangle. Their fathers are old friends as well as counsel and client. All are caught in the middle of the Crabbe deception because “Duck” Clench owes Roscoe money and Pauline has been thrown into the mix for good measure. And just for the heck of it an 80 year old waiter (Tom Edden) is added to the hilarity in case you don’t have enough to laugh at. To top it all off we are treated to musical interludes by the talented and stupidly charming band, The Craze.

    And, perhaps unlike any other legit show running in the city, the show succeeds most wildly when it comes to a screeching halt. It is at those moments – and if you are lucky there will be a few – that Cordon steps up to the plate and takes on all comers: fish heads gone astray; the occasional sandwich; a reticent audience member; and of course the ubiquitous mobile phone serenade. This and the musical interludes are part of the reason that the show runs 2 hours and 40 minutes.

    And though Corden does stray off the path, way off the path, we always return to the thread of this story that is filled with equal parts true love, deceit, mistaken identity, pomp, sex, circumstance, music, and people being really, really silly. The ensemble is fine tuned and brilliant from start to finish. This is humor that demands the actors fly from point to point without a net. They make it look easy, which is how you know that their precision is flawless.

    The result is that Two Guvnors makes you remember how long it has been since you laughed this hard because the experience is exciting and a bit foreign at the same time. “Oh, right,” your body seems to say to you, “I remember this! Why don’t we do THIS more!!”

    "Both satanic and seraphic, dirty-minded and utterly innocent. Letting loose and neutralizing all sorts of demons, it’s ideal escapism for anxious times."
    Ben BRantley for NY Times

    "Can we keep James Corden in New York for good? The young British actor is so mad talented, adorable and hilarious that you just want more of him."
    Joe Dziemianowicz for NY Daily News

    "These guys just want one thing, and it’s to make us laugh. They succeed brilliantly."
    Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Post

    "We are launched on a roller-coaster ride of silly hilarity."
    David Sheward for Back Stage

    "It's one of the silliest shows I've ever seen. And it's one of the Robert Feldberg for The Record

    "Expect to laugh helplessly."
    Michael Sommers for Newsroom Jersey

    "The show ... looks set to slay Broadway. ... If you’re not having a good time at this show, you may be on the wrong medication.."
    David Rooney for The Hollywood Reporter

    External links to full reviews from popular press...

    New York Times - New York Daily News - New York Post - Back Stage - The Record - Newsroom Jersey - Hollywood Reporter