James Corden took The Late Late Show to London this week, and on Tuesday, he treated viewers to something extra special. “After the success of the last few Crosswalk Musicals, I knew I had to get the company out of Los Angeles. It was too much: the constant fame, the adulation, the cocaine,” he said. “Where better to go than where I made my name on the stage?” Before Corden revealed which musical they would be performing at the Strand in Westminster, he teased, “The musical we will be performing is practically perfect in every way.”
Company members guessed Cats and My Fair Lady before Corden revealed it would be Mary Poppins. He then introduced Sir Ben Kingsley. “It takes one great man to make a great show, but it takes an even greater man to invite another great man to make that show great,” he said.
Kingsley was cast as Bert, a role originated by Dick Van Dyke in the 1964 movie musical; Corden cast himself in the titular role. “I’m so excited to be here,” Kingsley said. “I’ve always liked James and when he told me about the idea, of course, I jumped at the chance. Theater should be at the people—especially, in this case, for the people in their cars driving home from work.”
The scene began with Kingley singing, “Winds in the east, mist coming in / Like somethin’ is brewin’ and bout to begin / Can’t put me finger on what lies in store / But I fear what’s to happen all happened before.” With a little help from a crane, Corden entered with an umbrella.
“Look, it’s not for me to say. I hear whispers: ‘Oh, he’s better than Julie Andrews.’ I can’t say that. Those aren’t my words,” the CBS host teased. “But I think I’m better than Julie Andrews.”
After singing “Spoonful of Sugar,” the time came to perform “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” Corden gave one cast member a pep talk, telling him, “You’re a penguin! Smile with your eyes!” Drivers and pedestrians were both amused and annoyed by the show. After it ended, Corden told Kingsley, “That is the performance of your life! That made Gandhi look like amateur hour!”
The next three songs were “Chim Chim Cher-ee,” “Step in Time” and “Let’s Go Fly a Kite.”
“This has truly been the highlight of my career. I mean, I know I’ve played Gandhi and this and that, and this and that, but honestly, today I was Bert,” Kingsley said afterward. “I smashed it!”
Corden was quite pleased with himself. “I think a wise man once said, ‘You can never go home again.’ But I think if he could see what just happened there he’d go, ‘Actually, I was wrong. My bad. He can,'” the comedian joked. “And you can rock it on the strand on a Tuesday in London.”
Emily Blunt—who stars in Disney’s Mary Poppins returns—will appear on Thursday’s show.
The Late Late Show With James Corden airs weeknights at 12:35 a.m. on CBS. The U.K.’s Sky network will broadcast all the London episodes through June 9 at 10 p.m. on Sky 1 and Now TV.