ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS, by Richard Bean, based on Carlo Goldoni's The Servant of Two Masters, with songs by Grant Olding, directed by Nicholas Hynter, began preview performances on Broadway at the Music Box Theatre on Friday, April 6, and opened tonight, April 18.
The cast, led by James Corden as Francis Henshall, features Oliver Chris as Stanley Stubbers, Jemima Rooper as Rachel Crabbe, Tom Edden as Alfie, Martyn Ellis as Harry Dangle, Trevor Laird as Lloyd Boateng, Claire Lams as Pauline Clench, Fred Ridgeway as Charlie Clench, Daniel Rigby as Alan Dangle and Suzie Toase as Dolly.
ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS tells the story of Francis Henshall ("ONE MAN"), always-famished and easily-confused, who agrees to work for a local gangster as well as a criminal in hiding (“TWO GUVNORS”). Henshall has to do everything in his power to keep his two guvnors from meeting. What did the critics think? Let's find out!
Ben Brantley, The New York Times: It’s a rich, slow-spreading smile, like butter melting in a skillet over a low flame. And whenever it creeps across James Corden’s face in the splendidly silly “One Man, Two Guvnors,” which opened on Wednesday night at the Music Box Theater, you know two things for sure: You’re in for trouble, and you’re already hooked. Struggle as you will, there ain’t nothing you can do about it. That smile captures the essence of “One Man, Two Guvnors,” Richard Bean’s inspired adaptation of an 18th-century Italian farce by Carlo Goldoni, directed by Nicholas Hytner. A runaway hit in London, where it originated at the National Theater, “One Man” is, like Mr. Corden’s grin, both satanic and seraphic, dirty-minded and utterly innocent. Letting loose and neutralizing all sorts of demons, it’s ideal escapism for anxious times.
Mark Kennedy, The Associated Press: Bean and director Sir Nicholas Hytner have made further tweaks to accommodate the unfamiliarity of most Americans with some British expressions. It’s been said our two countries are divided by a common language, but the joyous laughter emanating from this production could reunite them at last. Staged by Hytner with close attention to farcical nuance, the extremely accomplished original British cast animatedly sends up the politically incorrect, often-bawdy jokes and stereotypes of that bygone era, aided by frequent audience participation and interludes of peppy skiffle music.
David Sheward, Backstage: But the story is not really the main thing here. That would be Nicholas Hytner’s dazzling and delirious staging, which establishes the ingeniously absurd setups and then accelerates them, shifting into higher and higher comic gear. The Music Box management should be required to install restraints for the seats, as you’re likely to be falling out of yours from laughing so hard.
David Cote, Time Out: Hunger, like all urgent and uncontrollable bodily functions, is an eternal wellspring of humor. Think of Charlie Chaplin grimly carving up his boot in The Gold Rush, Mr. Creosote’s last supper and that old, reliable sight gag, the fellow desert-islander who morphs into a talking turkey leg. Tummy rumbles equal belly laughs, and both abound in the National Theatre’s gobsmackingly funny One Man, Two Guvnors. Driven in its first half by the peckish desperation of freelance flunky Francis Henshall (James Corden), this virtuoso banquet of slapstick farce and verbal jousting brings with it a shocking revelation: How starved we were for comedy.
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: Few theatergoing experiences are as joyously liberating as being part of a packed house roaring with laughter at low comedy. That shouldn’t imply any lack of genuine wit in the broad farce and bawdy humor of One Man, Two Guvnors, Richard Bean’s gut-busting update of the Carlo Goldoni commedia dell’arte nugget, The Servant of Two Masters. Striking an ingenious balance between meticulous planning and what plays like anarchic spontaneity, Nicholas Hytner’s production has been a deserved success in London. With virtuoso ringmaster James Corden on hand to juggle the demands of dual employment while wrapping the audience around his pudgy finger, the show now looks set to slay Broadway, too.