BWW Review: FIVE GUYS NAMED MOE Heats Up The Skylight Music Theatre
It's the talk of rhythm town, ya dig? Five Guys Named Moe at the Skylight brings crazy energy, big voices, and hot moves to the Cabot Theatre. The storyline is loose: The recently-dumped Nomax is wallowing in the wee small hours of the morning to the tune of Louis Jordan on an inexplicably 1940s-style radio. All of a sudden, guardian angel-like, five guys named Moe pop out of the radio to lend wisdom to the downtrodden dumpee. What little narrative springs from there exists in service to the 25+ Louis Jordan tunes that follow. Here are six reasons to come have a listen - and, if the spirit moves you, join the conga line!
(1) The Guys On Stage
There are actually six entertainers featured in Five Guys Named Moe. There's the dumped Nomax (Gavin Lawrence) and his five Moes: Four-Eyed Moe (James Carrington), No Moe (Shawn Holmes), Eat Moe (Sean Anthony Jackson), Big Moe (Lorenzo Rush Jr.), and Little Moe (Kevin James Sievert). Across the board, these guys wow again and again, from their insane dance moves (flips! splits! taps!) to their powerhouse vocals to the way they get the audience movin', groovin', and feelin' good.
It's hard to decide which Moe impresses - well - mo'! Sievert's Little Moe is a dynamite performer. From his agility to his comedy to the way he hits every note with ease, Sievert is a blast to watch. Then there's Rush Jr.'s Big Moe whose fiery swagger and deep, warm vocals nearly convince you he's your favorite Moe.
But all of a sudden, Carrington's Four-Eyed Moe dresses like a chicken and sings in hilarious, perfect high pitch. The laughs are out loud, and the feeling of awe is real. Jackson's Eat Moe delivers splits, spins, sweet vocals, and laughs. Holmes' No Moe gets the chance to shine and really bring it home with "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Cryin'." Lawrence's Nomax holds his own, though his vocals are hard-pressed to compete with the Moes. All six performers are, in a word, fantastic, and it's really fun to see them play off each other.
(2) The Gals Behind The Scenes
Mirroring the six guys on stage are six ladies in major roles behind the scenes: Director Malkia Stampley, Music Director Christie Chiles Twillie, Choreographer Lanette Costas, Scenic Designer Tara A. Houston, Lighting Designer Latrice Lovett, and Costume Designer Samantha C. Jones.
In the audience guide, Stampley says, "Five Guys is, of course, all about guys. But it is also a true ensemble piece and the Skylight is proud to support our talented performers with a strong creative team of women rocking the show from behind the scenes." Kudos to Skylight for filling the creative team with women, especially women of color.
(3) Get On Your Feet!
If you don't like audience participation, just avert your eyes at Five Guys. But it's more fun if you're willing to go all in! The Moes strongly encourage hollering, whistling, and general audience enthusiasm, plus joining in a calypso sing-along and pre-intermission conga line.
(4) Discover & Dig That Jazz
If you don't already know who Louis Jordan is, Five Guys Named Moe will teach you a thing or two. Jordan was an American pioneer of 1930s-50s jazz and helped lay the foundation for rhythm and blues. Called the "King of the Jukebox," Jordan boasted 18 number-one hit records in the 1940s. Per the Skylight audience guide, Jordan's music appealed to both black and white audiences of the time, making him one of the first successful crossover artists and one of the most successful African-American musicians of the 20th century. In short: He's a pretty important fella.
(5) What Moe Means To Men Of Color
Clarke Peters wrote his revue, Five Guys Named Moe, in 1990. His work was nominated for Best Book of a Musical that year at the Tony Awards. "At that time, there was no vehicle for men of color to express and challenge their talents, which was another reason I wanted to create a show," Peters told The Guardian in 2017. "In that respect, Five Guys Named Moe has fulfilled its mission. The number of young men and women who have told me that this show inspired them to come into the business is a wonderful thing to hear."
"Jordan wanted everyone who saw his shows to simply have a good time. With all that is happening in the world today, locally, nationally, and internationally, the moment to escape into the 'rolling good time' is needed."
(6) Contagious Energy
Rolling good time needed? Rolling good time delivered! The actors play to the audience and heat up the Cabot with nonstop song and dance. It feels clear that everyone involved with this production is having the time of their lives, and that kind of positive energy is catching.
Oh, and did I mention that a live jazz band plays on stage the entire time? Kinda makes you wonder what other surprises lie in store at Five Guys Named Moe. You've got two more weekends to find out!