Amidst the gloom of the slave trade in the latter part of 19th century America, a musical revolution within the Deep South would grip the minds and souls of its population. A melting pot of French, Spanish, Haitian, Cuban and West African culture; New Orleans would give birth to an exciting movement incorporating improvisation and individuality. Jazz music has inspired generations; Louis Armstrong, Miles Davies, Billie Holliday and Ella Fitzgerald amongst others shaping the genre. Clarke Peters’ Five Guys Named Moe celebrates New Orleans Vivacity. Louis Jordan’s music and lyrics, is a nod to a genre that would unite a people rather than divide.
It’s 1940s New Orleans and Nomax steadily drinks his life away. Unemployed and single, Nomax is helpless, gradually bumbling his way through life. Cue Big Moe, Little Moe, Eat Moe, Know Moe and Four Eyed More, aka, five guys named Moe. Each serve as guardians, their intention, to steer Nomax’s life around for the better. Mykal Rand’s Nomax is loveable, his ‘down on his luck’ energy causing the audience to root for him. Ian Carlyle’s Four Eyed Moe brings a sense of cool, Idriss Kargbo’s Little Moe brings sass, Dex Lee’s Know Moe contributes a smooth energy, Horace Oliver’s Big Moe brings charm and Emile Ruddock’s Eat Moe adds an air of vibrancy, especially with his tap sequences. This quintet of characters energise Nomax’s existence, however the steady catalogue of Jordan’s musical numbers take away from their individual personalities. Ensemble is key here as the point is that these five characters work together to boost Nomax’s morale, simultaeneously there’s a want for continual stand out performances.
Clarke Peters directs a vivacious production, wary of capitalising on the Marble Arch Theatre’s ‘in the round’ space. The cast perform Andrew Wright’s dynamic tap and jazz infused choreography on a revolving circular stage; Wright channels the Nicholas Brothers with fearless tap routines performed on tables. The live band is the show’s life force, all energy is created by a talented collective. Five Guys Named Moe is a party from start to finish, flourishing in it’s musical accompaniment and choreography, but just misses a spark with a defined narrative. 3/5
Review written by Lucy Basaba.
Five Guys Named Moe is currently showing until Saturday 24th March 2018 at the Marble Arch Theatre. For more information on the production, visit here…
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