Five Guys Named Moe at Westchester Broadway Theatre, Elmsford, NY

Published: Monday, February 24, 2020 By: EUGENE POLINSKY Source: Rockland County Times

When famed British showman producer Cameron Mackintosh first laid eyes on Five Guys in its East London tryout, he knew he had a hit,scooped it up and brought Clarke Peters’ “revuesical” to West End London where it became an Olivier award winner, ran for over 450 performances, then to Broadway, where it was a hit all over again.  And now it’s at Westchester Broadway Theatre with cheering standing ovations from a well fed happy audience. Can’t beat that with a stick.

It’s sheer entertainment hung on the thinnest of premises by creator Clarke Peters who  loved the happy, blowsy,, bluesy music of 1940s Louis Jordan the rock behind the beginnings of rock and roll,  mad original musician,, composer, performer, one of the great saxophonists. Jordan and his band played all over, all venues, white and black for decades, hundreds of songs.  Peters had to control himself and winnowed the music down to  a couple of dozen, funny, funky,, sassy, moody. Smooth as silk, musical director John Daniels and his knockout band  offer solid backing behind the amazing five Moes, Quentin Avery Brown! Tyler Johnson Campion! Douglas Lyons! Tony Perry! And Isaiah Reynolds! The proceedings are pure joy.

Oh, the story line?  Let’s do that quick: It’s five a.m.,the old time radio is grunging, the neighbors are complaining, and No Max (Napoleon M. Douglas), sucking on a bottle of bourbon, is in the miseries because his sweet Lorraine has dumped him, when, pouf! Flash! The Five Moes whomp out of his radio to straighten him out.  This is not brain surgery and if the Moes werent’ each and every one of them so confident, so assured, so incredibly talented, we’d be in deep water but from their get-go they have us eating out of the palms of their multiply talented  hands. They sing!  They dance! These are truly impressive gentlemen, especially in costume designer Allison Kirstukas’s borderline hysterical take on their outfits. But if you come out of a bourbon dream, what else would you look like? Definitely colorful.

“Beware, Brother, Beware” explodes all around mopydopy NoMax as a paean to being careful in your relationships, followed brashly by “I Like ‘Em Fat Like That” which Little Moe expounds upon like crazy. Then, in quick,, smooth order, “Messy Bessy”, “Pettin’ and Pokin’” and when No Max shows signs of re-life, an absolutely blown away great “Azure Te”, one of my favorites, thanks to Director/choreographer Richard Stafford keeping his talented quintet grooving.

And now, Four-Eyed Moe (Douglas Lyons)  reaches out.  To us!  Next thing we know we are up to our ears and waving our hands and yelling responses to “Push Ka Pi Shi Pie” and don’t ask me what that is except it’s Calypso which is so very not today and I don’t know why not. We are having FUN. Story line be damned.

When next we see our Moes, they are in their own club, in white sartorial splendor  (over the brightly colored bourbon dream attire) and John Daniels and his super band, Steve Bleifuss, Jim Briggs, Dave Dunaway, Jay Mack, Brian Uhl are several feet closer to us. No Max is being entertained by his saviors, the Five Guys, on a continuous blast of Louis Jordan winners in a crazy range: “Saturday Night Fish Fry”, “If I Had Any Sense”, “DadGum Your Hide Boy”.  We are definitely not in  todayland and it’s too bad for today. In every juke box musical on Broadway, there’s the unmistakable influence of Louis Jordan’s wide, embracing heart.  A music industry has adapted and adapted until it’s  a stranger to itself but Louis Jordan will never disappear.  He’s too much of the original juice.

I’m right there with “Let the Good Times Roll”, and gone ridiculous with “Caledonia”.  And really gone ridiculouser with “Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens”. But the contagion of fun and joy these Five Guys emanate is irresistible. Yes, No Max and his sweetie get together again, the Five Guys done done their good deed and they sure done done their good deeds with us, I don’t care what kind of social scientist you are. That’s what entertainment is all about.

 

A rollicking, rambunctious, delight!.