Five Guys Named Moe from Underbelly Productions in association with Cameron Mackintosh at The Festival Square Theatre is one of the seasonal highlights of Edinburgh’s Christmas 2016 programme.
Performed by special arrangement with Music Theatre International (Europe) this sharp, slick and very tight show features many of the classic hits from one of my favourite singers of any era – Louis Jordan.
Our main man Nomax (Matt Mills) is broke, under the weather from a drink or two too many and thrown out by his girlfriend Lucille. As the music of Louis Jordan plays out from his radio, Nomax meets “Five Guys Named Moe”. Through the songs of Louis Jordan and others from the period, Big Moe (Cameron Johnson), Know Moe (Jacob Maynard), Eat Moe (Emile Ruddock), Four Eyed Moe (Spin) and Little Moe (Mitchell Zhangazha) attempt to show Nomax what it really means to be a man and the error of his ways.
Through timeless songs like “Knock Me A Kiss”, “Brother Beware”, “Caldonia”, and of course “Five Guys Named Moe”, our five Moes are on razor sharp form all through the show with great vocal and group harmonies and slick choreograpy (Jason Pennycooke). As sharp as the songs and choreography are the costumes and set (Tom Rogers).
With a live band behind our “Five Guys Named Moe” and Nomax, that classic rhythm of Louis Jordan never leaves this show all night. This is also one of my favourite set designs in a long time and from the moment the stage opens to show our live band standing in front of a backdrop of Louis Jordan’s classic red label 78 record of “Five Guys Named Moe”, you know that great attention to detail has been taken here. This show is being performed in a Spiegeltent, and really imaginative use of that space has been achieved here as our cast move seamlessly in and out of the audience all through the show. Some nice surprises as to how this circular space is used, but I am saying no more on that subject as some things should be left for an audience to experience without some reviewer giving the surprises away. Special mention here to Philip Gladwell (Lighting Designer) and Ben Harrison (Sound Designer) as they add so much to the feel of this show…and of course director Paulette Randall for getting this one “just right”.
All of our five different Moes are outstanding as single or group Moes, so it’s really unfair to pick any one out for special mention here. Matt Mills as Nomax also puts in some great vocals here, but also manages to portray with great skill and presence a man regretting his ways and knowing that he must change. This show, like all the really good shows out there, has many levels to it. On one level we have the “Man in charge of all the Ladies” theme running through so many of Louis Jordan’s songs while at the same time dealing with a man who realises that he has found his true love, and the single lady of his life...and for the moment lost her!
“Five Guys Named Moe” pretty much has it all for a show – great songs, great cast, great choreography and sets, and lots of humour. Just one of those rare shows where you feel better after you leave than when you first went in.
Review by Tom King