Dual Critics Theatre Review: Five Guys Named Moe at the Alhambra

The Alhambra Theatre opened “Five Guys Named Moe” on April 4th, 2018. The musical, which was Tony nominated in 1992, runs through May 6th.  The theatre is located at 12000 Beach Boulevard in Jacksonville, Florida. Visit alhambrajax.com or call 904-641-1212 for reservations.

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The story concerns a young man named Nomax (Jereme Raickett)  who is experiencing relationship problems. He forgot his girlfriend’s birthday and she  walked out on him. He is lamenting his troubles while listening to music when five guys emerge from the radio to help him with his love life.  Their advice is delivered in songs which, just to name a few, include “Beware, Brother, Beware, “I Know What I’ve Got’“ and “Safe, Sane & Single.”

All his  airwave friends are  named Moe. They are Bryon Glenn Willis (Big Moe), Damien DeShaun Smith (No Moe), David Berry (Little Moe), Rendell Anthony DeBose (Eat Moe), and Darryl Reuben Hall (Four-Eyed Moe).

The Moes use songs and jokes that reflect their individual perspectives and personalities, and the wonderful music and lyrics of songwriter and saxophonist Louis Jordan (1908 – 1975) and other musicians of his era to help the confused Nomax. Jordon wrote over fifty songs and had five million-dollar hits by 1949. Fun fact:  The musical, created by Clarke Peters, debuted in London in 1990 and is based on a song of the same name featuring Jordan and his Tympany Five ensemble, which was recorded by Decca in 1943.

The show’s musical styles range from hot jazz to cool blues, with a bit of calypso thrown in. Actually, “Push Ka Pi Shi Pie” was one of the show’s most popular, because it involved audience participation, with a sing-along and a conga line weaving around the stage. Note: joining the conga line is not mandatory. But it’s lots of fun!!!

Producer-Director Tod Booth has assembled a cast with great voices, great dancing skills, and the ability to establish wonderful rapport with the audience.

Anthony Mincey II is an understudy for all the roles, and makes a cameo appearance dressed as a calypso dancer.  Alhambra regulars may recall seeing him, along with Jereme Raickett and Bryon Glenn Willis in “Dreamgirls” here at the Alhambra. Darryl Reuben Hall as Four-Eyed Moe wears glasses for his role; you may remember his appearance in one of the leading roles in the Alhambra’s last production of “The Wizard of Oz.” Hall is well known locally as the founder of Stage Aurora.

One of the hilarious bits of this show involved bringing four ladies from the audience to the stage to be interviewed by Four-Eyed Moe. It was totally unrehearsed and lots of fun.

James Kinney’s choreographer’s dance routines were spectacular and have such excellent dancers was a plus.

The   excellent live Jazz Band was led by Anthony Felton on Piano, with Chanel Miller (Drums), Brooks Clarke (Electric Bass), Paul Jackson (Trumpet), Alex Hernandez (Saxophone), and Nicholas Carter (Trombone).

The costumes by the Costume Crew had all the actors wearing snazzy suits from the forties, with fedoras added for the second act.

The set by Ian Black & David Dionne consisted of a giant vintage radio that went from floor to ceiling. The band, tucked away in the top part, could be seen from time to time as the lighting changed. Lighting Designer Daniel Dungan used the many overhead lamps to create moods to match the changing songs.

We found the musical unique and pleasing, filled with great talent, good humor, and wonderful music. We must admit we did not know all of the songs but were familiar with several classics, which included “Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens” and “Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying,” along with “Let the Good Times Roll,“ “Caldonia,” and “Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby?”

The production staff included Tod Booth (Producer/Director), James Kinney (Choreographer) Alex Nordin (Associate Choreographer), Cathy Murphy Giddens (Musical Director) Patti Eyler (Stage Manager), and Darryl Reuben Hall (Dance Captain).

About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.