“I’ll never forget the excitement with which my musicals-mad Brother burst into the house, words spilling swiftly from him and filling the atmosphere with pure exuberance!
He had just returned from seeing the original presentation of a hit show, intriguingly entitled “5 Guys Named Moe”… and, for a moment, I truly believe that he, himself, had been dusted with dance-steps, as he couldn’t stop moving and enthusing about it…
The West End had been bowled over by an infectious party vibe, simply oozing the epitome of slick, combining hi-energy music, movement and accomplished acting!
I, meanwhile, was desperate to get a slice of the pie, which had my big Bro spinning like the proverbial top…. and, so began an affection for what the Arts could inspire, in just one evening!
Roll on a few decades and I find myself the one who has been swept up into the pre-show anticipation for, yours truly, would find herself in unique edifice of The Marble Arch Theatre, in-the-round… urging the artists to get the 2018 party started!
Yes, it was my turn to see the new 5 Guys!
Now, being so close to Mayfair, it was a thrill to take in a gentle sojourn within the eclectic environs of ‘Boisdale Restaurant’… How wonderful to be ensconced in this Scottish family-owned establishment, where the intimate atmosphere is one of front-room privacy, with an open-door policy to all-comers. How refreshing to be descending an LP-lined stairwell and shown the cavernous lower deck of “The Vinyl Bar and Groove Room”, where guests can while away the hours to shellac-soaked DJ sets, re-surface to live music and then, turn a corner, to encounter a splendid, split-level dining scenario. An amalgamation of secret worlds, hidden in plain sight, it is the perfect dessert island for a sweet-tooth, such as I! Were it not for the prospect of fulfilling a childhood dream, I would have reclined further into the arms of my comfy corner…yet, parting held less sorrow, due to the jazz, jazz, jazz that was jumping through the air… which would be quite the intro into my next musical milieu…
Matinée this may have been, but, as with the best of creative experiences, the time makes no difference, the audience number makes no difference (although, as far as the eye could see, it was a sell-out!)… when the lights go on, you’d better be ready to turn up for the business of show!
… And that, dear friends, is exactly what took place!
The one-and-only Clarke Peters, (he of the, seemingly, endless, stellar acting resume!) and former member of the original dazzling incarnation, which had so many in a spin, adds to his credits, by taking the directorial helm. The influence of his multi-disciplinary artistry is passport-stamped throughout the journey of the production. It is as if his soul were integrated with every fibre, of every number… his spirit inscribed in every dance routine!
The action was to take place in ‘The Marble Arch Theatre’, a location akin to a flat-pack, fold-out template, except of ‘Tardis’ proportions… But Ikea, this ain’t, honey! Oh no… this is the height of ‘purpose-built’, for a very definitive reason!
The deceptively-sparse, speakeasy set was amphitheatre perfection, in drawing the audience closer to the action. In order to accentuate the 360-degree effect, a great visual point-of-reference was a circular travellator-stage which rotated between inner and outer seating circles… meaning that, cleverly, the concept of ‘rows’ simply didn’t register. It was a superb mechanic with which to suspend reality, unite us all, and facilitate us swivelling in our seats, as if in trendy upmarket office chairs!
I relished the fact that, at no point, did I feel as though I were simply an observing part-of-the-furniture!
Quite the opposite, since, at this all-encompassing gem of a jamboree, we all felt part of the production, which upped-the-ante, where audience participation was concerned… From semi-skatting ”The Calypso BeBop”, to the collective conga, any nerves were assuaged by the excitement of lyrics literally falling, confetti-like, from the rafters accompanied by a rousing Caribbean rhythm, respectively.. and that was just Act One!
Notwithstanding the twenty-minute interval, this theatrical train rarely, if ever, decelerated.
As for the actors, they were swan-like… Hardly pausing for breath, they appeared to glide through proceedings, as smoothly as their dance sequences! Show-tunes were, at once, belted out with grit and gusto, whilst wistful with vocal reminiscence, so as to project pain and pathos, with tender poignancy. The clarity of narrative being served, par excellence by a company of players, both, front and back of house, at the apex of their collective game, optimising the entire arc of the engaging plot…
…which begins with our protagonist, “Nomax”, who is a washed-up, maxed-out drunk, becoming increasingly beholden to his vices. The worse for wear after yet another stint of night-life and libation, he is still intent upon continuing to party hard… Enter stage left, right and centre, five guys named ‘Moe’, with a short, sharp, shock of an introduction, determined to stop the downward spiral of women and wine, with song and dance… hopefully leading to redemption with Lorraine, the real love of Nomax’s life.
Edward Baruwa portrays the vexed, perplexed and dishevelled soak with distinct aplomb. The 5 Guys, “Little Moe”, “Know Moe”, “Big Moe”, “Four-Eyed Moe” and “Eat Moe” played by Idris Kargo, Dex Lee, Mykal Rand, Adrian Hansel and Emile Ruddock, sparkle like the best, vintage champagne, with soul-filled melodic recitations, as warming as a far-flung beach destination and as crystal-clear as the blue sea lapping upon the shores of their vocals.
Snazzily-dressed in the sharpest of threads, the Guys cut-a-cool-dash, in outfits, beautifully reflective and celebratory of the era, in a rainbow of coloured and textural references. For example, such bespoke stylistic touches as a punchy plaid for “Know Moe” and luminous lime-green circular spectacles on “Four-Eyed Moe” customized each quirky character trait with class and distinction. Synthesizing this attention-to-detail towards apparel with that of the choreography also made for impressive visual imagery. The finesse of Fosse under the spectrum spotlights gave way to full-on, Nicholas Brothers, at fever-pitch! The moves weren’t just slick, they were oil slick… and the more experimental they became, the better! Often weaving about the space with the ease of a shuttle through an antique loom, physical theatre was playfully explored, to powerful comedic effect. Yet, for all of the eye-catching clowning, moments of mimicry and mime, innovative transformation of props, the artistic intention was nailed, with every well-honed high-kick and picture-perfect pose, worthy of, undoubted, hours of relentless rehearsal!
Binding together this colossus of an ensemble endeavour, was the, simply stellar, jazz band… Silhouettes, but ever-present, behind intricate curtains in Act One, they dazzle during the overture in Act Two. No longer the exuberant, yet, enigmatic shadows, they become the main attraction, delighting us with samples of scintillating solo virtuosity, before receding, once more, into the ether of the energetic Louis Jordan-filled score… Out-of-sight, perhaps, but never out-of-earshot!
This put me in mind of another late, great Louis…namely, Armstrong, who once said “If you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know!”* Well, forget what you think you know, because, mark my words, you will get right-royally schooled by the majesty of this five-star musical… Compact, yet languid, fresh and free, this was total, high-impact theatre, awash with innovative twists and turns…
Yes, believe the hype, friends, and get down to The Marble Arch Theatre because I love, love, LOVED the rip-roaring rollercoaster ride through the age, with the 5 superfly Guys Named Moe and a standing ovation of satisfied, fellow theatre-goers emphatically agreed!
©A_F_R_O_W2018-2019. All Rights Reserved.
Click through for booking information about the smash hit show “5 Guys Named Moe” !
Deepest A_F_R_O_W-thanks to:-
Boisdale Restaurants, Team @Bubblz_Gigglz, Chloe at G-Gee PR and The Marble Arch Theatre for organising this outstanding, interactive experience!
(*Quote taken from www.brainyquote.com).