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Five Guys Named Moe

a Musical
CATEGORY :
by Clarke Peters (Featuring Louis Jordan's Greatest Hits)

COMPANY : Alliance Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Woodruff Art Center [WEBSITE]
ID# 1276

SHOWING : May 04, 2005 - June 05, 2005

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Five Guys Named Moe pop out of a Radio and help modern urbanite Nomax learn about love and life. Really, a revue of the music of Rock pioneer Louis Jordan.


CAST & CREW LIST
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

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"Five Guys" gets 5 stars
by Okely Dokely
Saturday, July 9, 2005
5.0
This was one fantastic production which, believe it or not, actually expanded upon the Aurora's already stellar production of FGNM in 2003. My tickets were for the balcony, but upon seeing that virtually no seats in the second row of the orchestra level were taken, my mother and I (I saw this with her on Mother's Day like a good son) snuck down during intermission and watched Act 2 from the second row. My favorite voice was from the one non-Moe in the cast - the actor playing Nomax. A detail I liked was the lyric sheets falling down from the ceiling to assist the audience in the singalong. At Aurora, the actors simply held up signs with the words on them. I was wondering how they were going to pull that off in such a big theatre, but the lyric sheet idea was truly inspired. Something my mom noticed that I didn't happened during the tap number. The metal part of one of the actors' tap shoes kept trying to come off, and the actor had to keep pressing it back in. I didn't notice a thing, so bravo to that actor for covering it.

To borrow a phrase from something Gene-Gabriel Moore said on the ATML, this was directed by "a genius named Kent Gash." I fully believe this self-proclaimed 112-year-old was on to something with this statement. Mr. Gash is at the helm of the upcoming tick...tick..Boom!, and I am all the more eager to be there now. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
Just Say "Moe"
by Dedalus
Saturday, June 4, 2005
3.0
This past weekend, Alliance Theatre closed its popular production of “Five Guys Named Moe,” a revue of the music of Louis Jordan. This production razzle-dazzled sold-out crowds at the Woodruff Arts Center, where it was one of the most popular shows of the year. And, is it any wonder? It was an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink collage of song and dance, which included every trick known to please – talented and attractive performers, sing-along calypsos (including lyric sheets dropped from the ceiling), multi-colored and awe-inducing lighting, fast and furious set-changes, confetti cannons, a conga-line, a male stripper, even a dancing chicken. Let’s be honest here – this ain’t Ibsen.

This was all in the service of a musical that pays homage to the songs of Louis Jordan, one of the early pioneers of Rock and Roll, and an acknowledged influence on James Brown, Ray Charles, Chuck Berry, and B.B. King. This is reason enough to honor his work, and all the theatrical bells and whistles make it a fine experience for young and old, cynical and sincere, pretty much everybody.

There was just a small problem – the creators threw in a “story line” that sabotages the show every time it rears its head. I can honestly say I liked this show. But at the same time, I have to acknowledge that the libretto truly truly sucks.

Such anthology musicals have become very popular over the last several years. Whenever I see one, I always ask myself one simple question – is this play better than a simple concert of the same songs would be? To my mind, the “gold standard” of anthology musicals is “Play On,” which seamlessly splices the Duke Ellington catalog to the plot of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.” The result is an incredibly rich musical that honors Ellington, Shakespeare, and the Harlem Night Club Scene of the 20’s and 30’s.

In this case, though, the story line just doesn’t work. A contemporary urbanite (Nomax) falls asleep as an all-night radio show plays the songs of Jordan. Faster than you can say “bad contrivance,” five guys named Moe appear and sing songs to him which, allegedly, make him give up his partying ways and treat his girl friend with love and respect. But when the songs are “What’s the Use of Getting Sober?” or stereotype-celebrating trifles like “Saturday Night Fish Fry” or “Push Ka Pi Shi Pie,” it’s hard to believe that they’d succeed in making anyone give up a life of partying and putting-down.

What is truly irritating is everything that’s good about this production – the talent, the music, the theatricality, the razzle-dazzle – could have been included in any concert of the same songs. The story-line subverts them and gives them a weight they shouldn’t have to bear.

Did I like this show? Of course. But it also made me feel a little cheap and dirty, making this fall into the “guilty pleasure” category of plays. And Louis Jordan deserves better than that.

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)
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