Friday, 22 September 2017

Five guys named Moe

An all-singing, all-dancing – including the audience – evening, based on the music of band leader Louis Jordan

Written by Richard Barber

Do you blanch at the idea of an audience participation singsong? Does the prospect of being hauled up on stage to sing –solo – a snatch of a song you've never heard before have you recoiling in horror? Is the thought of 600 people doing a conga at the interval on the way to the bar enough to make you order a double? Then this is not the show for you.Richard-Barber-colour-176
I'm white, English and middle-aged (my children would say old) so Five Guys Named Moe, while it has much to commend it and the exuberance with which it is put across is not in question, simply isn't the show for me.

But its setting is terrific. Housed in a new pop-up theatre right next to Marble Arch, called a Spiegeltent, it evokes nothing so much as the Big Top at a circus. There's an inner enclave known as the bull ring which contains cabaret-style tables and chairs for those audience members brave enough to be within hailing – or should that be hauling? – distance of the performers. This is separated by a revolving wooden walkway from the rest of the auditorium and the relative safety of the cheaper seats.

The central conceit could scarcely be simpler. Bourbon-sozzled down-on-his- luck Nomax (Edward Baruwa) has been given the heave-ho by his long-suffering girlfriend and is drowning his sorrows in the small hours when five guys suddenly materialise out of his radiogram.

Four-Eyed Moe (Ian Carlyle), snake-hipped Little Moe (Idriss Kargbo), sexy Know Moe (Dex Lee), Big Moe (Horace Oliver) and the well-nourished Eat Moe (a very funny Emile Ruddock) are there to tell Nomax, via Louis Jordan's songbook, where he's going wrong.

Jordan is a largely forgotten saxophonist and pioneer of rhythm & blues from the 1940s and 1950s whose Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby? is probably the only number that has stood the test of time. But there are plenty of others to make you smile and get your feet tapping: Messy Bessy and I Like 'Em Fat Like That! are both good fun.

And the first half closing calypso, Push Ka Pi Shi Pie, complete with lyrics supplied to every audience member, is fine as long as you don't catch the eye of a passing Moe.
Clarke Peters who wrote the book (such as it is) directs with real verve while the six-piece band is smokin' hot.

I can imagine Christmas office parties – the show runs until next February – perhaps emboldened by a few bevvies having a whale of a time at this feelgood show. Just beware of old Grinches like me

At the Marble Arch Theatre, London W1 until February 17: 03333-444167, 

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