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One Man, Two Guvnors to be tweaked for Broadway

By Tim Masters
Entertainment and arts correspondent, BBC News

image captionThe play is faced on an 18th century Commedia dell'Arte play by Goldoni

Hit comedy One Man, Two Guvnors has had a sell-out run at the National Theatre, toured the UK and is now in the West End, prior to a Broadway transfer.

But the job is not yet over for playwright Richard Bean.

He has revealed he will have to change parts of the play for a US audience before it opens in New York next year.

"I've got to work all winter rewriting it for the Americans because they don't understand any of the cricket references," Bean told the BBC.

That might be easier said than done, with much of the play set inside and outside a pub named The Cricketers Arms. One comedy scene involves a life-size cut-out of cricket legend WG Grace.

Several gags about the Isle of Wight's Parkhurst prison might also get the chop.

But Bean, a former stand-up comedian, promises that the changes won't be too drastic.

"The reason that the play works is that it is end-of-the-pier British comedy and obviously we're not going to destroy that."

Slapstick adaptation

One Man, Two Guvnors, which stars James Corden, opened at London's Adelphi Theatre on Monday night to rave reviews.

Michael Billington's five-star review in The Guardian praised the show's "mixture of improvisation with immaculate planning".

"When [Corden] begged a sandwich from the front rows, someone unexpectedly threw a pack of pork pies at him. Without losing his cool, Corden turned to the rest of us in mock-despair and cried 'have the first three rows come in a special bus tonight?'"

In another five-star review, The Telegraph's Charles Spencer said "Grit your teeth, increase your credit card bill and briefly forget your cares at the funniest show in town."

image captionFrancis Henshall (James Corden) woos Dolly (Suzie Toase) in One Man, Two Guvnors.

Corden stars as a sacked skiffle musician working for two bosses in 1960s Brighton.

The play is a slapstick adaptation of Carlo Goldoni's 18th century comedy The Servant of Two Masters.

Bean picked up a best play prize at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards on Sunday - although he was in fact honoured for two scripts: One Man, Two Guvnors and The Heretic.

Nicholas Hytner's production of the former opened to an ecstatic reception at the National Theatre in May.

After its four-month run at the Adelphi, it will open at New York's Music Box Theater in April, with Corden leading the cast.

The Broadway transfer follows other recent British successes such as the National Theatre's War Horse production and the Royal Court's Jerusalem, which is now back in the West End.

image captionRichard Bean won the 2011 Evening Standard best play award for both One Man, Two Guvnors and The Heretic

But Bean doesn't see the transfer as part of a new British Broadway invasion.

"There's a long history of Brits doing quite well on Broadway, and New York is just to the left of Wales really, isn't it?" he said.

"I think if British playwrights were really storming Los Angeles and California then you'd have something to talk about."

Bean is not keen on the idea that One Man, Two Guvnors might follow other National Theatre exports - like The History Boys and War Horse - to the big screen.

"On I technical point I would counsel against it," he said. "Essentially One Man, Two Guvnors is a farce and really think that is a specific genre for the theatre.

"If anyone is mad enough to do it they can come and talk to me, but I'm not going to anybody suggesting it."

Bean's plays include England People Very Nice for the National, Toast for the Royal Court and The Hypochondriac for the Almeida.

More on this story

  • James Corden set for Broadway with One Man, Two Guvnors