Tony Nominee James Corden Is Broadway's Comic One Man of the Moment

By Marc Acito
07 May 2012

Corden in One Man, Two Guvnors.
Photo by Joan Marcus

But one skill Corden has in spades is improvisation. Among the play's numerous joys is the way Corden engages (some say tortures) audience members enlisted for unexpected stage debuts. "You never know who you're going to be interacting with," says Corden. "I never do the same show twice."

Whatever show it is, the role of Francis Henshall marks Corden's return to Broadway, where he played one of The History Boys, a part he originated at the National Theatre and re-created in the film. After that, he became a celebrity to over 10 million viewers of the BBC comedy series "Gavin and Stacey," which he co-wrote and appeared in. Since then he has made countless television appearances, including an onscreen bubble bath with soccer legend David Beckham. ("He was unbelievably nice," Corden told Britain's Heat magazine. "I just wanted to lick him.")

He also has over two million followers on Twitter, where he refers to himself as "Dancer. Ballet, Tap and Modern." There he reveals his obsession with "Moneyball" ("Can't stop watching…Every night."), makes personal confessions ("I'm gonna say something I think might shock you. But Kelly Clarkson frickin' rocks!!!!!!!") and reports on his and fiancée Julia Carey's newborn baby's teething ("Up at 2am, 3am, 4:30am, 6am and it's still going…not the best way to prepare for 2 shows today!").

But playing the fumbling Francis has made Corden the Man of the moment, earning him a fan in none other than Prince Charles, whom he calls "a good bloke." That encounter probably led to the queen herself seeing the show in London. "I imagine he told his mum about it," Corden says.

Dominic Cooper and Corden in The History Boys
photo by Joan Marcus

Her Majesty actually caught Corden's replacement, because he'd already committed to the run on Broadway, a place to which he professes a "romantic attachment."

"It's absolutely true," Corden explains. "That's not a manufactured sound bite. Broadway is the most magical place to work. When we came over with History Boys, we didn't believe what everyone said about the closeness of the community. The West End is so vast — you can't run into one another on the street the way you do on Broadway."

The transfer across the pond necessitated a few small script changes, mostly references unfamiliar to Americans, because "there's no point in bringing a play to New York if the audience can't understand it."

But the dieting actor does have one apprehension: "I don't know if I can resist going to Bar Centrale after the show for a grilled cheese sandwich. Ron is the greatest barman in New York, but that's a heart attack on a plate."

(This feature appears in the May 2012 issue of Playbill magazine.)