Upstairs at the Gatehouse, London – until 16 January 2022
Reviewed by Debra Stottor
My first thought when I heard that ‘Five Guys Named Moe’ was coming to the Gatehouse was: how will all that song and dance work in such a small space? I needn’t have worried. Despite the stage area being a strip of floor about 8ft wide and the length of about 20 seats, with the audience seated on both sides, the cast performed effectively, and no one in the front row was inadvertently hit.
I first saw this show in the West End about 30 years ago, a full-on, glitzy show, and was intrigued to see how the energy would translate to a smaller venue. Clarke Peters’ musical has a story of sorts, but it mainly serves to link a series of songs by American saxophonist Louis Jordan and others from 1930s era of ‘jump blues’, a swinging, up-tempo hybrid of jazz, blues and boogie-woogie, all given a fresh, fun sound in this new production and performed impeccably. In short, it works.
The five Moes appear from nowhere to guide the hapless Nomax back onto the straight and narrow, using songs to advise how he might regain the affections of his long-suffering girlfriend. It’s not a complicated tale, and even this is dispensed with in the second half, until the very end. But when the songs are this good, frankly that’s a side issue.
The cast, which includes two Moes making their professional theatre debut (Andre Coulson as No Moe and Christian Maynard as Little Moe), work that small space really well, each number choreographed so that both sides of the audience get to see the action – and the audience is very much encouraged to join in the fun. Their singing is also spot on, whether solo or in harmony with each other, with a falsetto by Four Eyed Moe (Kieran McGinn) on ‘Ain’t Nobody Here but us Chickens’ a standout moment. And the band providing the musical accompaniment capture the spirit of the era with aplomb.
Mykal Rand’s direction and choreography (this isn’t his first time on this musical) make this production in this space really sing. He says: “I hope this show leaves people with a bounce in their step and a huge grin from ear to ear.” From what I could see, he’s hit the spot perfectly. This is a fun show, guaranteed to lift your spirits, and who doesn’t need a bit of that in their lives?