REVIEW: Five Guys Named Moe (Marble Arch Theatre) ★★★★★

Five Guys Named Moe is penned by man of many talents, Clarke Peters and this show first rock and rolled onto stage at Theatre Royal Stratford East back in 1990, before shimmying into London’s West End for four years and then hot-footin’ to Broadway (and casually picking up the Olivier for Best Entertainment along their travels…). Luckily for fans of the ‘Grandfather of Rock & Roll’ Louis Jordan, this show contains all of his best hits and has exploded back into the newly built Marble Arch Theatre. Produced by the team at Underbelly Productions, in association with Cameron Mackintosh, Steven Harris and Westminster City Council, Five Guys Named Mo is two hours of pure, (un?) adulterated, toe tapping frivolity.

The newly built Marble Arch Theatre is a true design masterpiece and upon entering the tent, the audience is transported back to the cool, smoky nights of a New Orleans Jazz Bar. Oozing 1940’s charm, drinks are served from a central bar, which houses a live jazz band playing on the stage above, as the audience enjoy a pre-show beverage. It is the immersive nature of this production that creates a truly unique night out and makes this show a really memorable experience. The theatre space itself is also cleverly designed, including cabaret style seating and a revolving stage which really surrounds the audience in the action.

The show begins when we meet down-on-his-luck Nomax, (Edward Baruwa) whose girlfriend has recently left him. The Five Moe’s appear from his radio to provide moral support; Four-Eyed Moe (Ian Carlyle), Little Moe (Idriss Kargbo), Know Moe (Dex Lee), Big Moe (Horace Oliver), Eat Moe (Emile Ruddock). The music washes over you and is both hypnotic and healing. Although the plot isn’t particularly detailed, the story is told brilliantly, with the audience hanging onto their every word. Scenes are smooth, dialogue precise and satirical comedy at the beginning of musical numbers is wholly appreciated. The Moe’s are all exceptional movers and groovers, with phenomenal vocals and enough energy and sass to warrant their standing ovation twice over. Each character has their own charm, quirks and idiosyncrasies and their banter is utterly infectious.

The band too, led by Steve Hill is a triumph; their onstage presence during the show is a real treat as they showcase their incredible musicianship. Similarly, choreography from Andrew Wright takes the audience on a real rollercoaster side, wholly encompassing Louis Jordan’s jazzy groove, with too many ingenious and comedic uses of “prop-ography” to count. There was the perfect amount of technical prowess, combined with an easy going improvised feel in both the movement and vocals, to allow the performers to shine under Clarke Peters’ innovative Direction. It is almost impossible to talk about this production without revealing too many spoilers, but in my opinion, it is a sin to miss a show where performers are executing a triple pirouette… mid-riff!

The whole experience of the evening could not have been so wonderful without the combined efforts of the smooth-talking Ensemble, Front of House and Service team who worked both passionately and tirelessly to ensure every member of the audience had a joy-filled evening. Though the plot isn’t especially developed and may not have a story-line which can solve all the problems in our world, the passion and soul embedded into the very roots of this show, and the Jazz legacy left by Louis Jordan, will most certainly get the world up on its feet and DANCING – and I feel in our current political climate, this is something we need now more than ever. Luckily, this production runs at the Marble Arch Theatre until February 2018 so there is plenty of time to shake away your troubles at the Funky Butt Club with Five Guys Named Moe.

Review by Lisa MacGregor
Photo: Helen Maybanks

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