THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE
A fantastic new pop-up circus tent theatre has appeared right next to Marble Arch. It is there to house a welcome revival of Clarke Peters' jumpin' jivin' 1990 classic Five Guys Named Moe, which he built around the pop hits of the 40's rock 'n' roll singer and saxophonist Louis Jordan.
A commendable collaboration between producers Underbelly (of Edinburgh and South Bank fame), Cameron Mackintosh and Westminster Council, this is no ordinary tent. The 600-seat seater has ornate, Southern-style wrought-iron columns and a luxurious bar where you can sip your cocktails and enjoy more live entertainment at the interval or after the show. In the auditorium designer, Takis has, kept it simple, put the band on stage and put cabaret tables in the centre and surrounded them with a circular revolving catwalk which brings the six performers close enough see 'em sweat. And they do, because this is the most infectiously high energy show in town.
The Moes emerge from a radio, being listened to by the heartbroken NoMax (a hangdog Edward Baruwa), who has just been dumped by his gal. The Five Guys offer various musically shaded nuggets of advice and that's about it in terms of plot. Most of the songs wittily explore the romantic battlefield but we also get some stunning novelty numbers such as 'Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens or 'Choo Choo Ch'Boogie' where the guys even morph into a steam train.
Jordan's music was the precursor of R&B and rock 'n' roll and unless you're dead these numbers will have you wiggling your toes. Although they were the light, disposable (and hugely popular) music of their time, there is something eternal about their savvy wit and infectious bonhomie.
Clarke Peters (now more famous for The Wire) sticks to directing this time but he and choreographer Andrew Wright's pristine attention to detail in the vocals, the comedy and the dance moves make it all seem effortless when it is anything but.
Peters conjured it up whilst at the National in 1990, first launched it at Stratford East from where it stormed the West End and then Broadway. Here he introduces us to an astonishingly talented sextet of newish performers – the charismatic Dex Lee (Know Moe), the cheeky Ian Carlyle (Four Eyed Moe) and the vocally commanding Horace Oliver (Big Moe). Emile Ruddock (Eat Moe) may be the chubby one but he moves with the grace of a ballet star, whilst the lithe Idriss Kargbo (Little Moe) appears to be made of rubber and has enough energy to power the national grid.
Steve Hill and Sean Whittle's arrangements are sensitively enhanced by Ben Harrison's great sound design and the band are simply ace. For the first half they're kept hidden behind a curtain but thankfully emerge to take their triumphant place in part two, when the action moves to the Funky Butt nightclub.
This show is a tonic and should be on prescription.