Five Guys Named Moe Theatrescene.com

Published: Monday, February 24, 2020 By: Edward Lieberman Source: Theatre Scene

An ode to the music of famed composer and saxophonist Louis Jordan, whose up tempo rhythm and blues creations are widely considered to be forerunners of rock ‘n roll and rap.

In celebration of Black History Month, WBT is mounting a high-energy production of Five Guys named Moe, an ode to the music of famed composer and saxophonist Louis Jordan, whose up tempo rhythm and blues creations are widely considered to be forerunners of rock ‘n roll and rap.

Five Guys Named Moe is the creation of performer and director Clarke Peters, who grew up in Harlem listening to the music of Louis Jordan on the radio. Jordan, who started his career in the 1930’s in big-band swing bands, became an early composer and performer of rhythm and blues and jump blues, and is credited by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which inducted him in 1987, as  “the Father of Rhythm & Blues” and the “Grandfather of Rock ’n’ Roll.” Among the rock & roll greats who list him as influencing their music are Chuck Berry and Bill Haley.

This is really not a “show.” What passes for a story line is pitiful. In essence, the one character who is not named Moe (his name is No Max) is drowning his sorrows from a breakup with his long-time girl when five talented strangers -- all named Moe -- emerge from his radio to give him dating and life advice in the form of songs from the Louis Jordan songbook (“Beware, Brother, Beware,” “I Like ‘Em Fat Like That,” “”Pettin’ and Pokin’,” “I Know What I’ve Got,” “Safe, Sane and Single”). That’s all there is to the “plot.” Not only that, the fact that Jordan songs are used to provide advice to help him get his girl back is the height of irony, since Jordan was married five times! Nevertheless, this being a musical entertainment, at the very end of the show, No Max gets back together with his Lorraine!

Given the paucity of plot, the show’s creator described it as a “revuesical!” And even with this reveal, the show does not get off the ground until the second act, when it morphs into a nightclub where each of the very talented Moes takes the lead with a song (ably abetted by their compatriots in flawless harmony). Once the second act gets going, things really take off, as attested to by the fact that the original London production won the 1991 Olivier Award (the British equivalent of our Tony Awards) for Best Entertainment, and the 1992 Broadway production was nominated for Best Musical.

These Moes are really good at what they do, from singing (especially,Tony Perry, as Big Moe); to dancing (Tyler Johnson-Campion, as No Moe, who knocks a tap dance solo out of the park); to eating the scraps off audience members’ tables (at least Quentin Avery Brown, as Eat Moe, does);

to leading the audience in singalongs and shoutbacks to the calypso tune, “Push Pa Pi Shi Pie,” and the playful jump blues classic, “Caldonia,” both of which are led by Douglas Lyons, as Four-Eyed Moe; and Isaiah Reynolds, as Little Moe, who provides comic relief (“I Like ‘Em Fat Like That”). In addition, there are the more famous songs from the Jordan repertoire, such as “Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby,” “Choo, Choo, Ch’Boogie,” “Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens,” “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Cryin,””Let the Good Times Roll,” and this reviewer’s favorite,”What’s the Use of Getting Sober (When You’re Gonna Get Drunk Again).” 

The talented cast is admirably backed by the six-piece on-stage band led by John Daniels, lighting by WBT regular Andrew Gmoser, the ‘30’s and ‘50’s costumes by Allison Kirstukas and, most importantly, by Director/Choreographer Richard Stafford, assisted by Kristyn Pope.        

If you want a good time, like to laugh and to sing along with the performers, are open to experience, perhaps for the first time, the music of the so-called “race music” of the ‘30s, ‘40s and early ‘50s, and appreciate a good meal, this is as good as it gets! Just make sure to keep Eat Moe away from your food!