A sense of anticipation was wholly transparent amongst the audience at Five Guys Named Moe. A significant number recalled the first time it ran in the West End in the early Nineties, and from what they tell me, the major difference here in the purpose-built Marble Arch Theatre is the immersive and interactive elements of the performance that is more difficult to achieve in a proscenium arch theatre. This is very much an ‘in-the- round’ production, and according to fellow theatregoers who have seen both the original Olivier Award winning London production and this updated version, it works much better with audience participation than without. The particularly bashful should sit further back: this way, the action can be enjoyed without having to be concerned about being invited on stage.
That said, there are a few moments in the show in which, to use a common declaration of solidarity, we’re all in this together. One of them is listed in the show’s programme. “Interval of 20 minutes – conga to the bar for cocktails, snacks and drinks!” Technically, participation in the said conga line is optional, as is buying a cocktail. I joined it primarily to head for the loo. (I shall spare you any further details about that.) But, the show is more of a joyous party than anything else, so why not take the plunge and conga out to the foyer at the end of the first half?
Now, as the other points at which the show becomes truly immersive aren’t specifically listed in the programme, I shall exercise discretion, except to say lyrics are made available to everyone at the appropriate time. It’s somewhat unfair to say, as a fellow theatregoer did, that “there is no plot to speak of” – there is one, and sufficient spoken dialogue within the show to provide a connecting narrative that support the songs, many of which themselves also push forward the plot. I couldn’t, however, help but chuckle at Nomax (Edward Baruwa) exclaiming, “Oh no, not another song!” as the band strikes up once more.
He only has himself to blame, apparently, for being so stubborn, and it takes more than twenty songs before he realises the errors of his ways. That, ultimately, is not entirely Nomax’s fault: one of the musical numbers, for example, is called ‘What’s The Use of Getting Sober?’ Make of that what you will. The show is of its time: ‘I Like ‘Em Fat Like That’ would be deemed downright inappropriate by contemporary morals and political correctness. Also, the show could do without a repeated punchline about a raffle prize that is still unclaimed (because – spoiler alert – it doesn’t exist). But these are really minor irritations in a musical that has such glorious harmonies and melodies that cannot help but lift spirits and leave the audience with smiles on their faces.
The five Moes work so well together that there are no stand-out performances, and yet they are all stand-out performances. The band, who spend much of the first half hidden behind a curtain, become a much visible part of the show later on, and it was pleasing to see musicians being so supportive of one another. Look out for the costumes in ‘Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens’. The banter is loveable. The choreography (Andrew Wright) is magnificent. I recommend staying, as so many did at the performance I attended, for the whole of the band’s post curtain call playout – it’s marvellous. To misquote Louis Jordan (music and lyrics), the good times are indeed rolling. A fervent, fiery and funky production.
Review by Chris Omaweng
A major new production of the smash-hit West End and Broadway musical swings into the new Marble Arch Theatre.
Nomax is single, broke and drinking his sorrows away when five guys named Moe – Big Moe, Little Moe, Eat Moe, Know Moe and Four-Eyed Moe – appear out of nowhere to help him straighten out and sing and dance his way to love!
Featuring the hits of original jazz king Louis Jordan, including Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby, Early In The Morning, Choo Choo Ch’Boogie and, Saturday Night Fish Fry, Five Guys Named Moe is a theatrical experience like no other!
Marble Arch Theatre
Marble Arch, London, W1C 1CX