IF you want your winter blues blown away – pre or post-Christmas – may I suggest you boogie on down to London’s Marble Arch and grab a slice of musical Five Guys Named Moe. You will not be disappointed.
It is heart-warming fare that at the very least will get you stomping your feet or even joining a conga into the bar at the interval. Indeed, if you are very lucky you may even be asked to join the Moes on stage – or more dauntingly ask to sing solo ‘Push Ka Pi Shi Pie’ (do not have a drink beforehand because the tongue twisting words will defeat you).
Five Guys Named Moe is based around the upbeat music of Louis Jordan, one of the pioneers of rhythm and blues in the early 1940s. A host of musicians including Bill Haley, John Coltrane and Ray Charles have all acknowledged the influence of Jordan in their careers – a musician who got the United States jitterbugging. I assure you that irrespective of age, you will not be able to stop yourself moving to the groove.
Jordan’s music (including classics such as Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens, Choo Choo Ch’Boogie and Caldonia) is used to tell the story of Nomax, a shambolic individual who likes his liquor, loves to party and plays his music loud irrespective of time of day or night – much to the consternation of his neighbours. Unsurprisingly, his gal is not happy and has unceremoniously dumped him. It is New Orleans, Louisiana in the early 1940’s.
In the depths of despair and somewhat worse for wear, Nomax is visited (supernaturally) by the five Moes who appear from out of his radio and attempt to put him on the road to redemption. The plot thereon in is somewhat thin, but that is not really an issue because the five Moes (Four-Eyed, Little, Know, Big and Eat) proceed to belt out a procession of foot tapping tunes. All done while carrying out some impressive manoeuvres – watching Know do the splits more than once is worth the admission price alone. It made my eyes water with the pre-show Gin & Tonic I had greedily devoured (Nomax would have been proud of me).
The musical, written by the talented Clarke Peters, is superbly staged within a pop-up tent where the audience can enjoy a pre-show cocktail or two (or G&T). The inner and outer audience is split by a moving circular walkway which the Moes parade around on throughout – bashing out song after song. All five are dressed to kill – wear sunglasses if you can find them, to shield yourself from the glare their attire gives off. Take an almighty bow takis, set and costume designer.
Indeed, when Nomax and the Moes are not circling or on stage, they are mingling with those of the audience sitting around tables in the inner circle. There is no escape from the Moes. The only assurance I can give you is that you will not be asked to do the splits.
It all makes for a fun evening that will leave you feeling a lot more cheerful than when you came in. There is a not a fault-line in the show although the Moes dressed up as chickens as they belted out Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens did stick in the craw a little – like an errant drumstick.
Edward Baruwa is stoic as Nomax, revealing all his imperfections. He even looks shambolic as befits his troubled character. But the real stars are the five Moes with Know Mo (Dex Lee), a mixture of testosterone overload and athletic prowess, leading the way. He prowled the stage like a tiger on heat. The audience swooned at his every movement. Boys and gals.
As for the band, they are sublime with Jessamy Holder on saxophone spellbinding. I defy you not to watch her perform on Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Cryin’ without a warm tingle passing down your spine like a volt of neat electricity.
Five Guys Named Moe is on until February 17. For the feel-good factor it emits, it is worth seeing. A worthy successor to the show that first went out in the West End in the early 1990s before successfully transferring to Broadway.
A perfect post-Christmas hangover cure. Or a pick-me up before the festivities begin at home. The choice is yours.
Nomax: Edward Baruwa
Four-Eyed Moe: Ina Carlyle (Adrian Hansel at time of review)
Little Moe: Idriss Kargbo
Know Moe: Dex Lee
Big Moe: Horace Oliver
Eat Moe: Emile Ruddock
Director: Clarke Peters
Choreographer and musical stager: Andrew Wright
Set and costume designer: takis