Musical leaves you wanting mo(r)e
If three supernatural visitors can turn a man’s life around — as do the visions of Christmas Past, Present, and Future for Ebenezer Scrooge — how much more effective would five magical visitors be? The splendid answer lies in Five Guys Named Moe, where Little Moe (Daryn Stewart), Big Moe (Philip Beltan), 4-eyed Moe (Micah Jeremiah Mims), Eat Moe (Dan Seward) and No Moe (Christopher George Patterson) amazingly appear in the bedroom of drunken, despondent Nomax (Brandon Hanks).
Nomax is a sorry mess. He staggers into his bed in a drunken stupor only to be awakened by his blaring radio and a barrage of phone messages from his girlfriend Lorraine berating him for missing both her birthday and their anniversary. He is filled with self-pity and woefully lacking self-knowledge.
This all changes when five colorfully garbed, athletic, song-and-dance men appear to prick his conscience and set him on the right path with so much energy that the audience is equally electrified.
All of the foot-stomping music is from the work of songwriter/saxophonist Louis Jordan, who is recognized as the Grandfather of Rock and Roll, a major influence on many who became more famous than he, including Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby, Chuck Berry and Ray Charles. And what music it is, bringing down the house with 28 rousing songs that include Caldonia, Choo Choo Boogie, There Ain’t Nobody Here but Us Chickens, and Is you Is or Is you Ain’t my Baby.
Where to begin praising? Patterson’s choreography is amazing and ever varied, including a calypso number complete with human limbo pole. Michael McCain’s set design is clever and effective, incorporating a city sky line as the back drop of Nomax’s dreary apartment, where a three piece band (Michael Larson on piano, Jeff Renza on drums, and Martha Spangler on bass) plays from the rooftop among the spires. Kudos to costume designer Peter Lovello for the vivid shirts, vests and trousers the quintet sports. And what an ensemble — talented on every level: fine voices, skilled dance routines (including tap), sensitive portrayals (especially true of Hanks who must run the gamut from despair to redemption), and great timing.
While Act I takes place entirely in the apartment, in the second act, the back wall opens to reveal a night club, the five Moe’s don white jackets and morph into headliners reminiscent of and as skilled as their most famous counterparts: the Jackson Five? the Ink Spots? the Temptations? the Flamingos? — you name it!
In 1992, both the musical and the book were nominated for a Tony but lost to Crazy for You. They deserved to win!
Beverly Friend, PhD.
Member, American Theater Critics Assn.
Broward Stage Door Theatre, 8036 W Sample Rd Coral Springs, Fl 33065. 954-344-7765 Tickets $38-44, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday through January 18.