Before he became a late-night talk show host and the king of Carpool Karaoke, James Corden earned a Tony Award for his energetic lead performance in One Man, Two Guvnors. Waiting in the wings was his understudy, Dallas native Brian Gonzales, who went on for Corden a handful of times as the overstretched assistant Francis Henshall.
Although only a couple of Broadway audiences got to see Gonzales perform, North Texas theatergoers have the extraordinary chance to see him step into the role again. Not only that, but Gonzales happens to be smack in the middle of a silly and slick production, one that exemplifies WaterTower Theatre at its best.
Richard Bean's update of the commedia dell'arte standard The Servant of Two Masters mixes slapstick with sophisticated comedy. It's a relentless onslaught of sight gags, puns, pratfalls, and clever wordplay that feels light and fluffy — a testament to how finely tuned the show actually is. There is also much breaking of the fourth wall, a device that this time inspires fizzy anticipation instead of the usual dread.
Gonzales is the linchpin as Francis, an affable chap whose grumbling tummy propels him to seek extra employment. He finds not one but two bosses and proceeds to juggle their demands, which intertwine crazily and challenge Francis to be extra quick on his feet.
The rest of the plot is best kept under wraps, partly because it sounds convoluted when spelled out but mostly because the delightful surprises sprinkled throughout are some of the show's greatest joys.
Director Terry Martin does well unraveling the complicated knot Francis finds himself in, keeping the message clear and simple despite the chaos swirling about. Chris Pickart's set is functional, while Sylvia Fuhrken's Mad Men-esque costumes make the actors extra jaunty.
Joining Gonzales from New York — he's generously on loan from the Broadway production of Disney's Aladdin — is his wife, Ashley Puckett Gonzales. The fellow North Texas native vamps it up as Dolly, a curvy feminist who is eager to take advantage of all the freedom 1960s England has to offer. It's no surprise that the air sizzles between the couple.
She's the perfect opposite to Allison Bret as the dimwitted Pauline, whose cluelessness is endearing rather than annoying. Despite her character's duplicitous plans, Alexandra Lawrence mostly settles into the straight man role, though she's hampered by an unsightly wig.
John-Michael Marrs is a worthy opponent to Gonzales as the preppy Stanley Stubbers, finding comedy gold without going too broad. And there's no one more suited to the role of Alfie, a surprisingly spry elderly waiter, than local fight choreographer Jeff Colangelo.
Keeping things ticking along is a Beatles-like quartet comprising Ian Ferguson, Alan Murphy, Sara Bollinger, and Alan Pollard. Come early to enjoy a free mini concert and truly get in the mood for the upcoming antics.
WaterTower Theatre's production of One Man, Two Guvnors runs through August 28.