by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM
Players by the Sea opened 2013 with a New Year’s Eve performance of the crowd-pleasing musical “Five Guys Named Moe.” This live wired production with two hours of song and dance features songs inspired by the late Louis Jordan, who is considered the father of rhythm and blues. Many of the songs were written in part by Jordan, while others were numbers his band made famous in the 40s.
The musical has two toe-tapping acts, with the first part consisting of a plot with a twist. The principal character, Nomax (Eugene Lindsay) is sitting at home at four in the morning, drinking, lamenting about being jilted by his girl friend Lorraine, and listening to his 40s style radio. Suddenly Five Guys Named Moe appear singing the title song. Eat Moe (Jerald Wheat), Big Moe (Anthony Mincey Jr), Four-Eyed Moe (Reese Dickerson), No Moe (Ben Bennett), and Lil’Moe (Steve Anderson Jr.) then follow up with nine more songs, singing and dancing while advising and coaching Nomax on how to handle women. Songs with titles like “Beware Brother, Beware,” “I like ‘em Fat Like That,” and “Safe Sane and Single” are humorous and designed to set the misguided straight on the meaning of life from a male prospective.
Act II has another dozen songs and we have moved with the Moes and Lomax to the Funky Night Club. In Act I, our Moes wore colorful shirts (pink, red, black, blue, and purple) with white collars and ties. Act II finds them in the same shirts, but they have now donned black tuxedos.
Some of Jordan’s best known songs took many in the audience down memory lane, songs like “Let the Good Times Roll”,”Ain’t Nobody Here but Us Chickens,” “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying,” and “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t Ma’ Baby.”
The show is interactive. With the classic “Caldonia, the audience is encouraged to sing along. Four volunteers from the audience will have the opportunity to go on stage for the song “Look Out Sister,” and you can expect invitations to participate in other involving scenarios . Besides the emphasis on the big band and brassy sound, you’ll hear calypso, blues and western styles.
Alejandro Rodriguez as Director did an outstanding job of casting for “Moe” and also created the fabulous choreography and designed the spectacular lighting and costumes.
The playbill has extensive biographies of each of these wonderful performers, much too detailed for us to cover here, so be sure to arrive early enough to read them before the show starts.
Music Director Bryant Miano on the piano leads the finest band you may have ever heard with Landon Baker (Percussion), Damon Martin (Bass), Mike Ulmer (Trumpet), Daniel Dickinson (Trombone) and Stephen Justice (Saxophone).
The classic nightclub set by Production Manager Brian Grant features an uncluttered interior in black, gray, and white, with washes of color added by lighting and flooring in Mondrian inspired blocks. A video screen in the background showed clips of Louis Jordon in action, along with other black and white images alluding to the big band era, which added to the atmosphere without being intrusive. Lindsay Curry, in addition to being the Stage Manager, was the light board operator.
From the opening number “Early in the Morning” sung by Mr. Lindsay as Nomax, to the closing number, a reprise of “Five Guys Named Moe,” the show is a moving and grooving production of high energy entertainment magic. It reminded us of Fats Waller’s creations with its clever lyrics and zany antics.
There is more of the Moes available at Players by the Sea, through January 19th. Visit playersbythesea.org or call 249-0289 for reservations and information. Don’t miss these incredible performers!
FIVE GUYS NAMED MOE
by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM