ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS
Sun, Sea and Skiffle
In 2011 Nicholas Hytner, director of the National Theatre asked Grant to write songs and music for the play One Man Two Guvnors - a new adaptation of the commedia dell'arte classic The Servant of Two Masters. This would be their fifth collaboration and the second time Grant had written songs for a new Richard Bean play, having worked on England People Very Nice at the NT two years previously.
The new play was to star James Corden as permanently ravenous Francis Henshall and had been relocated from 18th century Venice to Brighton in the early 1960's. Nick wanted an assortment of new songs hot on theme but not on plot; a lot of Skiffle, some beat group music, a close harmony Beverly Sisters type number, a Calypso, some bluesy film noir, all with hint of Carry On films and saucy seaside postcards.
In the second week of rehearsals Nick decided Grant should sing the majority of the songs and the show's band The Craze was born.
The resulting production was a smash hit for the National Theatre and won James Corden a Tony award when the show transferred to Broadway with almost the entire London cast. Grant himself won the Drama Desk Award for best score and was nominated for a Tony award for best music and lyrics. The original production played in the West End for three years, on Broadway for six months, did three UK and two international tours and delighted audiences and critics alike, being offically dubbed "the funniest show on the planet".
The show is now performed all over the world by professional companies and amateur groups, with Grant's songs at the heart of it. The original prduction was filmed by NT Live and can still be seen in encore showings in cinemas worldwide. The original cast album is available in all good record shops, The Brighton Line shows no signs of slowing and the Columbina River just keeps rolling on.
The Lockdown Skiffle Sessions
At the start of lockdown the National Theatre started a new initiative - NT Live at Home whereby certain NT Live productions were made available to stream free for one week on YouTube.
The first play the NT chose to release was One Man Two Guvnors, and so for a week in April 2020 the original hit National Theatre production was beamed into homes around the world and a whole new set of people got to experience the joy and energy of James Corden and the original cast.
Over 2.6 million people watched One Man Two Guvnors that week and that show alone raised over $89,000 for the NT in a fundraiser that ran alongside the stream.
Inspired by all the new love for The Craze and Grant's skiffle music, the original members reunited remotely to make some videos of songs from the show entitled "The Lockdown Skiffle Sessions". And excitingly on July 3rd the original cast album got it's first UK digital release from Air Edel Records and is now available to buy from iTunes, Amazon, Apple Music and to stream from Spotify.
So strap yourself in and skiffle on!