Five Guys Named Moe – Review

Five Guys Named Moe. Images Helen Maybanks.

“No, No! No!! Not another song!!!”

Well, yes and, good they are too. Welcome back Five Guys Named Moe, enjoying a West End revival at London’s pop-up Marble Arch Theatre.

Less a full-blooded musical and more a cabaret act, Moe, is a sheer delight. The party starts ahead of the show in the New Orleans-style bar where the music strikes up.

Once inside the spiegaltent, a beautifully constructed performance space but which fails to give the the production the right atmosphere, the audience is split with the privilaged sitting at cabaret tables inside a revolving stage, with the rest occupying the cheap seats outside.

If this had been Barnham then the ad hoc theatre, due to stay up until February, would have been perfect, but it didn’t do justice to a story set in an apartment and, later, a night club.

Niggles aside, the music is glorious, a celebration of the politically incorrect tunes of Louis Jordan, from a time when you could sing about fat women without fear of protest or prosecution.

The story, from Clarke Peters, could have been written on the back of a fag packet. Slobbish Nomax has been kicked out by his girlfriend for failing to commit.

He returns home, blind drunk, in the early hours of the morning, railing at life’s injustices and feeling sorry for himself.

He puts on the radio and suddenly five guys, sharply dressed and from a bygone era, magically appear in a puff of smoke.

There’s Four-Eyed Moe (try getting away with that name today!) wearing glasses, Little Moe, Big Moe, Know Moe and, providing the comedy, the always hungary, Eat Moe.

And they proceed, over the course of the show, to try to give Edward Baruwa’s hopeless Nomax, much needed advice on how to woo his dispirited girlfriend.

He’s constantly trying to get rid of these musical ghosts from times past, and shut them up, but without success.

Instead he must endure until he learns to get in touch with his romantic self that is buried beneath a gruff exterior.

It is all achieved with considerable flair and originality, with top turns from the all-singing, all- dancing, tireless Moes – Ian Carlyle, Idriss Kargbo, Horace Oliver, Dex Lee and Emile Ruddock respectively.

There is a bit of audience participation – a penance for paying out for premium seats – but it is pretty harmless. A conga leads the audience out to the bar during the interval and there is an invite to continue the night in the bar, post show.

It’s that sort of production. Light-hearted, entertaining, and fun, rather than a traditional musical concept that keeps everyone rooted to their seats and clapping politely after each song.

Andrew Wright’s inspired choreography makes full use of the entire auditorium and the band do justice to songs ranging from melancholy blues to infectious jazz, stopping briefly at calypso, country, toe-tapping swing and boogie-woogie.

The last scene gives the Moes their own showcase as a cabaret act, leaving Nomax stranded at a punter’s table in the audience. He seems to enjoy the show but I couldn’t help wondering if Peters, also directing, had forgotten about his leading man.

Five Guys makes for a fun night out but this morality tale could do with more work on its plot. Personally, I’d have been happy just watching the Moes in a song and dance show.

They certainly don’t write songs like “I Like ‘Em Fat Like That!” and “Pettin’ and Pokin'” any more, more’s the pity.

Five Guys Named Moe is now booking until February.

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