While clownish Francis is meant to be dedicated to working only for Rachel/Roscoe, she hasn't yet paid him, so when he happens to meet in-need-of-a-dogsbody Stanley — not realizing his connection to his other employer — he decides to secretly try serving both of the titular two "guvnors." Mayhem and, for the most part, hilarity, ensue.
If you, like me, cringe and cower at the prospect of any kind of "audience participation," this show may make you rather uncomfortable. If you revel in fourth-wall breaking and improvised comedy, however, you'll love Santana's impressive, exuberant, interactive performance, which also entails tossing off references designed to appeal to local audiences. He does his best to live up to a role seemingly tailor-made for Corden and largely succeeds, although his British accent does disappear periodically. Everyone in the cast is high-energy and up for anything, including engaging in demanding physical comedy. Director Patrick Klein and physical-comedy director Carla Pantoja keep the ridiculous antics moving along nicely, even if the key scene in which Francis attempts to serve two dinners at once does go on a bit long. I enjoyed everyone's performances but for me the MVP award goes to Satterwhite, who is absolutely pitch-perfect as cheerfully sadistic, uppercrust-boarding-school-damaged toff Stanley. Simply splendid.
The most charming, and special, aspect of "One Man, Two Guvnnors," though, is the fact that it boasts original songs sprinkled throughout, performed by an ace band (Pauline Sampson, Brietta Gregerm, Nathan Howland, Nicholas Martin and Drew Weber, directed by Lauren Bevilacqua) as well as the cast, who occasionally sing and turn up for solos on increasingly humorous instruments.
The pastiche music itself moves along from skiffle — acoustic, jazz/folk/blues-influenced pop tunes played often on homemade instruments — to British Invasion rock 'n roll in the style of the early Beatles. Highlights include the wonderfully harmonized trio number by the three ladies of the cast ("Lighten Up and Lay Low") and the rollicking "The Brighton Line." It's all a great treat to watch and listen to and you can bet I'm listening to the soundtrack as I type this.
Costumes by Patricia Tyler include nicely matching retro cardigans for the band and give a neat nod to Franics' roots in the commedia dell'arte Harlequin character by outfitting him in argyle. Klein's scenic design evokes the early '60s era and the whimsical look of Brighton pier and pavilion.
If you're looking to laugh (and you're not terrified by the possibility of — shudder — audience participation), "One Man, Two Guvnors" may be just your cup of tea.
What: "One Man, Two Guvnors."
Where: Lucie Stern Theater, Middlefield Road, Palo Alto.
When: Through June 30 (showtimes vary).
This story contains 822 words.
Stories older than 90 days are available only to subscribing members. Please help sustain quality local journalism by becoming a subscribing member today.
If you are already a subscriber, please log in so you can continue to enjoy unlimited access to stories and archives. Subscriptions start at $5 per month and may be cancelled at any time.