One long magic MOE-MEnt
Five Guys Named Moe
Marble Arch Theatre, London Until February 17, 2018, 2hrs
Such is the success of Clarke Peters’s warm-hearted, pitch-perfect, high-energy, jukebox tribute show to the rhythm ’n’ blues sax jazz legend Louis Jordan, that he is reviving it for the umpteenth time – no longer as the star but the director – in a pop-up theatre designed to bring a flavour of New Orleans in the Fifties to London.
It’s a spiegeltent inside the Marble Arch roundabout with a cocktail bar in the foyer shaking up bourbon sours and Hurricane cocktails that you can take in to the performing space, the Funky Butt Club, where a stunning six-piece band is already making this new joint jump.
The plot is barely there: a drunk, rumpled, weepy Nomax (Edward Baruwa, short on soul) is at home in his apartment, his girlfriend Lorraine having upped and left him. Cue the moody ‘It’s early in the morning and I ain’t got nothing but the blues’.
Then, out of his radio spring five bright-eyed and bouncy, zoot-suited guys named Moe, beaming wildly, singing in glorious harmony and dancing up a storm, while dishing up advice to Nomax on his woman problems. They kick off with a warning – Brother Beware – before suggesting that Safe, Sane And Single might be the way forward.
But by the end, Nomax has learned to say sorry and ask Lorraine Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby? and it’s smiles all round.
As far as love stories go, Antony and Cleopatra this ain’t. The narrative slips out of sight entirely when Nomax settles down to watch a cabaret, an excuse for the fabulously engaging five guys to shimmy, swivel, shake and shuffle expertly on an O-shaped conveyor belt, YO! Sushi-style, simply letting the good times roll with Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens and Choo Choo Ch’Boogie and more. But it’s all done with such effortless charm and infectious exuberance that when the words to Push Ka Pi Shi Pie fluttered down from above, the audience cheerfully raised the roof and then leapt up to join a conga line. The perfect date night.
Left: Dex Lee as Know Moe. Below: the Five Guys and Edward Baruwa, far right, as Nomax. Bottom: Idriss Kargbo as Little Moe
Ian Carlyle as Four-Eyed Moe