FIVE GUYS NAMED MOE
Theatre lore has it that when the great impressario Cameron Mackintosh first saw the original version of Clarke Peters’ Five Guys Named Moe, he was so impressed that he bought the rights to the show outright during the interval.
This touring production is a carbon copy of Mackintosh’s own sell-out West End and Broadway production, and had a lot of hype to live up to.
The plot, or perhaps I should say the theme, of Five Guys is very simple. Nomax (Colin Roy), the show’s protagonist, is home alone in the early hours – smoking, swigging from a flask of whisky, and crooning along to the Louis Jordan songs which emanate moodily from his radio. Dumped by his girlfriend and dismissed by his friends, he’s "got the blues". By this point, so had I.
But as I began to wonder where they were hiding the feel-good factor for which the show is renowned, the answer quite literally sprang from the radio in the form of the eponymous Five Guys – Little Moe (Delroy Atkinson), Big Moe (Marvin Springer), Eat Moe (Paul Hazel), Four-Eyed Moe (George Daniel Long) and No Moe (Julian Cannonier) – the fantasy products of Nomax’ overactive and over-imbibed imagination.
The tempo of the show is revved up as together the Five Guys take Nomax in hand. Against a simple but evocative set, Louis Jordan song after Louis Jordan song from the post-war jazz era of the late ‘forties becomes a lesson for Nomax - and for "all you men out there" - in how to treat a lady right.
And that is the sum of the plot.
Does it work as a musical? Well no, but nor does it pretend to. Does it work as a showcase of Louis Jordan hits? Again, I would say not really, partly because the diction was often unclear and the words drowned out by the band who perform from the stage, and partly because the majority of the songs are simply too alike.
As Nomax, Colin Roy was required for the most part to sit, watch and listen as the Guys sang, danced and fooled around, this character being little more than a thin plot device to allow them to appear at all. There was little scope then for depth of acting, but Roy played the part with feeling, never for a moment lapsing into the role of an additional audience member.
So does the show live up to the hype?
Well, no and also a resounding yes. Never have I seen an audience so enthused, performers give such energetic and heartfelt performances, or audience (or indeed orchestra!) participation on this scale – be warned, the Guys could teach panto a thing or two about this!
And although the theme only very thinly accommodates the inclusion of several of the songs, there are two which stand out as being right up there with the musical greats – the title song, ‘Five Guys Named Moe’, and ‘Is You Is, Or Is You Ain’t My Baby?’, the latter providing the show with its most poignant moment.
It is difficult to pick out any one of the performers for particular praise for they all deserve it with their collectively rich voices, exuberant style and most palpable desire to give the audience what they paid for – a wonderfully good time. Louis Jordan once said, "I want to play for the people". He would have been proud that his word has been taken so literally.
Copyright Laura Kane 2002. For syndication rights, please email.
STUFF TO BUY:
Five Guys Named Moe [SOUNDTRACK]
Five Guys Named Moe
[Original Cast Recording]
Five Guys Named Moe [Import]
Five Guys Named Moe