Marble Arch Theatre, London
Five Guys Named Moe premiered at the Theatre Royal Stratford East in 1990, ran for over four years, transferred to Broadway and won the Olivier Award for Best Entertainment. Despite this, it’s a fairly unknown musical so is an exciting addition to the London scene which is currently made up of a lot of long-running classics.
The rise of new and unique theatrical experiences is ever growing, with pop-up theatres and immersive events offering unusual theatrical adventures. Cameron Mackintosh has grabbed this trend by the horns in his new venture with the specially built Marble Arch Theatre. The theatre is simple on the outside but completely brilliant on the inside; as you walk in it’s like entering the tardis. You’re brought into a large 360 bar complete with a live band above and a wonderful selection of drinks to get your night started in the perfect way.
Written and directed by Clarke Peters, the show charts the story of Nomax, whose girlfriend Lorraine has left him. With no money and booze as his best friend, he meets Big Moe, Four-Eyed Moe, Eat Moe, No Moe and Little Moe as they emerge from his 1930s-style radio to guide and comfort him as they sing the songs of saxophonist and songwriter, Louis Jordan. Personally, I found the story pretty pointless. At times, it felt that the songs didn’t really fit and I didn’t feel emotionally attached enough to either Nomax or Lorraine to care whether they got back together or not.
Despite this not so stellar story, the music is spectacular. Each song is playful, catchy, foot-tapping and filled with warmth and affection for one another. The five Moe’s are energetic and throw themselves into the fast-paced, jazzy pieces and choreography by Andrew Wright with joy and exuberance. The on-stage band showcase the rhythm and complexity of the music well and are particularly impressive during their solo moments.
The Moes are Four-Eyed Moe (Ian Carlyle), Little Moe (Idriss Kargbo), Know Moe (Dex Lee), Big Moe (Horace Oliver) and Eat Moe (Emile Ruddock). The Moes are banterous with one another and seem like the kind of guys you’d have an amazing night out with. They are all equal, sharing solos with one another and each having their own personalities which bounce off one another and work together seamlessly in moments of tight harmony. All five men have absolutely outstanding voices as well as sleek, sharp dance moves which are showcased in a smooth and stylish way. Similarly, Edward Baruwa is fantastic as Nomax, his effortless, strong voice soars and he manages to be emotional, funny and contemplative at times.
As previously mentioned, the venue is very cool, however, I don’t feel like it’s ideal for this show. The round space doesn’t really add anything to the story and due to the un-raked seating there are moments missed by the audience. I was sat in the third row of the stalls which sounds fine but with three tall people in front and no varying levels it was very difficult to see and I often found myself craning my neck to try and see through the gaps. The screens used around the sides of the space are a very nice touch but felt underused. It would be exciting to have them at other points, as long as they don’t become gimmicky.
Overall I did enjoy this show though. The story is nothing special but I adored the music and it’s certainly a brilliant, toe-tapping show with flawless performances all round and perfect for a fun, light-hearted night out. It you want catchy songs and first-rate singing in a very neat London venue then this is the show for you! So let the good times roll and hop along to the Marble Arch Theatre!
photo credit: Roy Tan