Five Guys Named Moe – Upstairs at the Gatehouse, London

Reviewer: Andrew Houghton

Music & Lyrics: Louis Jordan

Book: Clarke Peters

Director: Mykal Rand

Classic musical Five Guys Named Moe returns to London in the familiar hands of director Mykal Rand, who worked with the show during its last iteration at Marble Arch in 2017.

The musical is a bizarre one to say the least, constructed around a group of five singers (all named Moe) who leap out of the radio, singing the hits of Louis Jordan, to cheer up Nomax, who has recently split up with his girlfriend. This concept is executed loosely, and almost non-existent in the second act, yet the constant stream of characterful songs provide an evening of joyful entertainment.

Whilst the narrative structure is thin, small interjections of dialogue do give the piece some direction and the songs are well placed to vary the show’s pace. Particular highlights are Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens and Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying, contrasting one of the silliest numbers of the show with a heartfelt ballad and which return the attention to Nomax’s emotional arc. Kieran McGinn and AJ Lewis also deliver some of the most memorable vocals of the night in these respective numbers.

Each Moe has their chance to shine throughout the performance and there is no weak link in this impressive pack of triple threats. The group members have seemingly limitless energy as they deliver rigorous choreography while maintaining their boisterous attitudes, yet their vocals never falter and numbers like Is You Or Is You Ain’t My Baby feature truly beautiful harmonies.

Despite being the protagonist of the piece, Juan Jackson is given surprisingly little to work with as Nomax. However, his rich and controlled vocals never fail to impress and he brings depth, humour and heart to the role, which is no easy feat when the character appears to be drunk for the duration of the show.

This production is staged in traverse which gives the entire experience an intimate feel, with no audience member more than a few metres away from the cast. Rather than just viewing the spectacle, the audience feels immersed and completely swept along by the tide of playful songs. This also works in the performers’ favour when instigating certain moments of audience interaction.

The only noticeable aspect of this production which falters is the sound system. Despite it being an intimate space, the microphones are fairly loud and all transmit from the same overhead speaker. This is quite disorientating in the traverse space and results in more than one instance of having to actively search out the source of the singing amongst the cast. Also, there are also repeated mishaps such as feedback, peaking and the sound cutting out; which can be problematic during some of the quicker paced numbers.

Five Guys Named Moe is a truly enjoyable experience, narrative or not, and definitely worth seeing for anyone who appreciates high-quality musical theatre performances. Whether you are familiar with Jordan’s music or not, this stellar cast will make you fall in love with each and every song and leave you with a smile on your face.

Runs until 16 January 2022

The Reviews Hub Score

Truly enjoyable

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The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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