Review - Five Guys Named Moe at the Marble Arch Theatre
It's been almost thirty years since Clarke Peters' musical first hit London. After a three night tryout at the National, it found success at Theatre Royal Stratford East. Now, it opens at a purpose-built space at Marble Arch optimised to make this show a fun night out.
We meet Nomax, stumbling in at the early hours, drinking to mask the pain of a bust up with his girlfriend. With a flash, he's joined by five guys - Big Moe, Little Moe, Eat Moe, Four-eyed Moe and Know Moe - who burst out of his radio. Through the songs of jazz legend Louis Jordan, they teach him lessons about life and love. And that's pretty much it.
The piece makes no apologies for not having much of a narrative. It's simply a compilation of feel-good soulful tunes linked with some short funny scenes of dialogue - the very definition of a jukebox musical. Song after song after song (much to Nomax's displeasure) we're treated to tunes from the depths of Louis Jordan's career in a show that really does testament to his music, and that's very much in part thanks to the terrific band led by Steve Hill.
As the show gets rolling, each Moe (and Nomax, played by Edward Baruwa) gets his time in the spotlight, and they make a fantastic ensemble with chemistry as good as any cast. Little Moe (Idriss Kargbo) is an absolutely terrific dancer, suave Know Moe (Dex Lee) brings the cool factor, whilst Four-Eyes Moe and Eat Moe (Ian Carlyle and Emile Ruddock) light up the room with their humour as they dance on the tables. An a capella rendition of "Knock Me a Kiss" is a standout, and the soulful ballad "Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby" proves a powerful finale.
There is much audience participation in this show, mostly interacting with those sat at cocktail tables at the front of the stage. Sometimes, this comes off as holiday resort audience interaction, but the Moes are so charismatic and charming they manage to pull it off, whilst maintaining a level of cheesiness.
The set is rather bare, but that's because this new auditorium is the set. Set under a big top, the faultless six piece band sit behind a stage at one side, which joins with a circular runway which revolves as the ensemble dance on it. It's inventive, and one of many reasons why this production works so well in a bespoke space (others reasons include: a conga line into the interval, and a live band that play on the roof of the bar).
If this isn't a show that gets you singing along or tapping your toes on the Tube home, I doubt much will.
Five Guys Named Moe Tickets are available here.