Five Guys Named Moe
Marble Arch Theatre
A musical by Clarke Peters
Featuring Louis Jordan’s greatest hits
Julia Pascal

 

Five Guys Named Moe is the long-running hit that started at the Theatre Royal Stratford East in 1990 and is now enjoying an extended run at the pop-up Marble Arch theatre.  Set in the round, this is a juke-box musical that originates in Louis Jordan’s 1940s and 1950s R&B medley.  The plot is very thin but its skeletal narrative is compensated by the showmanship of the performers.

The story centres on Nomax, finely played by Edward Baruwa.  He is a home-alone, drunk, abandoned by his girlfriend after she has become tired of his neglect.  A black guy unable to commit to a relationship is the central axe of Clarke Peter’s script.  This gentle moral tale shows Nomax learning to be a responsible lover by Five Moes who materialise out of the radio.  The guardian angels are Big Moe, Know Moe, Little Moe, Four-Eyed Moe and Eat Moe.  On the night I went, these were played respectively by Horace Oliver, Omari Douglas, Idriss Kargbo, Nathaniel Morrisson and Emile Ruddock.  This is a terrific ensemble of players and each has great individual appeal.  Everyone gets a chance to perform solo and this is a display of bravura, song, dance and athletics that seduces audiences.  The six-piece band is top class, as is Andrew Wright’s fresh choreography.

There are glorious moments of political incorrectness in Clarke Peters’ production.  most notably I Like ‘Em Fat Like That when the characters play out female, black stereotypes, but the dominant message is one of teaching black guys to commit, take black women seriously and treat them with respect.  I left the theatre chanting the unforgettable lyrics- Iz You Iz Or Iz You Ain’t My Baby?  This production should be offered to anyone suffering from depression as an immediate cure.

Julia Pascal © 2017.