PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: One Man, Two Guvnors, a Brighton Beach Romp

By Harry Haun
19 Apr 2012

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As the tall twit of the "two guvnors," co-star Chris exhibited a picture of pomposity worth puncturing. "Because the play is based on commedia dell'arte, all the characters are archetypes, but, instead of being Italian archetypes, they are now English archetypes," he pointed out. "I'm the archetype of the English public school, minor aristocrat, classist kind of snob. I love to be able to characterize that, but I love also to be able to show, inside all this arrogance and elitist attitude and his kind of sexual deviancy and insanity, there's a real beating heart inside the guy, and he's just deeply in love with his girlfriend. I think that's a lovely thing to have to act."

His Playbill bio tips his hand: "Oliver is currently quite into the idea of becoming a massive movie star. He has also just won an award for doing acting. It's made of plastic." On April 15, he had a shot at the more substantial Olivier Award, but both he and Corden — the show's lone Olivier contenders — came away empty-handed.

Rooper, the other guvnor and the aforementioned girlfriend, managed to look girlishly attractive in male drag. "Oh, good!" she purred. "That's all I aim for."

She admitted to a bad case of opening-night nerves but much prefers the Broadway opening instead of the ones back home. "In London," she said, "opening night is when all of the press are in, and you know they're your enemy, but there's one chance. We don't have any control over it so tonight was just 'try and have fun.'"

Suzie Toase, playing the kind of busty hot-tart that Barbara Windsor made a specialty of in the old "Carry On" movie comedies, seconded that: "I just love the way we were looked after, and how magical the evening was. At the curtain call, I tried to be brave and sensible and not cry. I really tried very hard."

A dandy take-off of the overly theatrical actor was turned in by Daniel Rigby: "I started off with an Ian McKellen voice, but that was dropped. Basically, it's Olivier and classical theatre-actor voices. That's what the main spoof is. The stuff that I do is, basically, my own observations of the ludicrous physical theatre that I've seen in my life — basically, just sticking my chest out and doing it."

And, in an evening of high-flying, free-wheeling farce, attention must be paid to Natalie Smith, an American new-hire in her Broadway bow, for bringing a grounded reality to the proceedings.

Richard Bean
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Adapter Bean, who wrote England People Very Nice for a Hytner presentation at the National, was beaming by evening's end. "I have a good time every time I've seen it," he confessed. "I think I've seen it 67 times now, and I still enjoy myself — weirdly. Now, what happens next?" Answering his own question: "Next, I'm going to be doing The Count of Monte Cristo at the National Theatre for Christmas this year. It won't be a comedy, obviously. It'll be a romantic thriller. There won't be much music. They'll be people escaping from prison – spoonful by spoonful, if you remember."

First-nighters included Brian d'Arcy James, composer Justin Ellington, designer Michael Kors and husband Lance LePere, and Grant Olding, who composed the songs for One Man, Two Guvnors.

Director George C. Wolfe escorted his Caroline, or Change star, Tonya Pinkins, now rehearsing her third consecutive play Off-Broadway on West 42nd. Mandy Patinkin, looking like a dock worker in his beard and black toboggan, was accompanied by his regular accompanist, Paul Ford. New York magazine's Frank Rich and The New York Times' Alex Witchel took in their first Broadway opening in eons. Stand-up comic-turned-Broadway-actor Jim Gaffigan (via That Championship Season) brought the wife as well: Jeannie Noth.

Jason Butler Harner said he was two weeks' deep into rehearsing the new London import, Cock. "Please print it. Some places aren't printing it. I promise there is no nudity. It turns out to be the perfect name for the show, especially with this set they've created. There's no set. There's just a 13-foot diameter round space that's a cock fight and the actors attack each other and feel things, and you watch and arbitrate and judge and, hopefully, laugh your ass off."

Because Charles Busch dropped by to compliment Scott Elliott on The New Group's Burning recently, they've struck up a professional relationship. Now Elliott said he's cast Busch as the prison matron in a one-night-only (April 30) benefit reading of Tom Eyen's campy Women Behind Bars.

Also: playwright John Guare, whose Are You There, McPhee? world-premieres May 11 at Princeton's McCarter Theatre; Dee Hoty, Public-bound this fall in Michael John LaChiusa's musicalized Giant; Jayne Houdyshell, off to L.A. with Follies; Tom Riley and Vogue queenpin Anna Wintour.

Read more about One Man, Two Guvnors in the Playbill Vault.