Five Guys Named Moe is a Toe-Tapping Delight

WINTER PARK — It’s been said that you can’t solve your problems through alcohol, and the new musical at The Winter Park Playhouse, Five Guys Named Moe, suggests a smart alternative. What about song and dance healing your wounds instead?

The show opens with Nomax stumbling home after a night of drinking. He proceeds to drink even more while listening to his old 1930-styles radio. Nomax is drowning his sorrows in booze for a reason: his girlfriend has left him, and he’s got no money. He starts singing along with the song on the radio, when he magically gets an unexpected visit – from those five guys named Moe. It seems that Big Moe, Four-Eyed Moe, Eat Moe, No Moe, and Little Moe literally emerge from his radio to offer Nomax some wisdom on why his life is a mess — and how to correct it.

Along the way, the cast of pros has a grand time taking Nomax, and the audience, on a sweet musical journey.

This production, which opened on Friday and runs through April 20, is light on pilot but weaves its way successfully through comedy, some eye-popping dance numbers, a hilarious audience sing-a-long to a rousing Calypso number, and also a sense of nostalgia for the R&B music of an earlier era. This is toe-tapping fun, and a real high-energy show.

What is Five Guys Named Moe?

This 1992 Broadway show, written and conceived by Clarke Peters, owes much to the music of Louis Jordan. The show was based on a 1943 short film in which the legendary saxophonist Jordan played himself getting the visit from those mythical five guys. After debuting in the United Kingdom, the musical moved to Broadway and was revived in 2010 at the Edinburgh Festival with Peters himself in the lead.

As Nomax tries to figure out what these dudes are doing in his living room, his new buddies insist that the right songs, the proper music, can take us out of any slump we find ourselves in.  They certainly give that theory a grand test run through exuberant songs such as “Brother, Beware,” “Pettin’ And Pokin’,” and “Life Is So Peculiar” — which give even the dour Nomax a reason to get off his chair and dancing and singing along.

The highlight of the first act, set entirely in Nomax’s living room, is the audience participation song “Push Ka Pi Shi Pie,” a lively calypso number by Jordan. The printed lyrics were provided to the patrons in their program books, so everyone could sing along (“Ooblie – Aayee Eye Yay Abla, it’s the new Calypso be bop” — got it?)

The second act, set in a nightclub, provides a showcase for all five Moes to demonstrate their individual talent — and Nomax as well, right up until the show-stopping finale, “Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby?” If you’re not in a better mood leaving this show than you did coming in, seek help immediately.

What is the Winter Park Playhouse’s Production Like?

Five Guys Named Moe is a Top-Tapping Delight

As you walk into the Playhouse’s Mainstage, the stage is covered in blue — lighting that is perhaps supposed to reflect Nomax’s initial blue mood. It seemed appropriate to me, because you’re unlikely to be feeling blue by the end of the show.

Brandon Martin not only has a fantastic singing voice but he provides some of the show’s best comedic touches — after all, Nomax is supposed to be drunk when the show begins, and Martin keeps his character looking slightly tipsy throughout the entire first act. He’s got a genuine gift for hilarious expressions.

The actual five Moes — Eric Green (Eat Moe), Darryl Reuben Hall (Four-Eyed Moe), Adourin Jamelle Owens (Little Moe), James Berkley (No Moe) and Evan Edwards (Big Moe) capture the enormous sense of fun this show was designed to provide, delivering expertly timed comedy, some beautifully choreographed dance numbers and a harmony that’s tough to beat. It’s a cast of pros having a great time charming the audience.

This production is also a delight for the opportunity to hear the accompanying live music, featuring the Playhouse’s musical director Christopher Leavy on piano, Chris Mewhinney on bass, Ned Wilkinson on horns and Sam Forrest on percussion.  Wilkinson has a sizzling show-stopper moment on saxophone that’s going to thrill you.

Five Guys Named Moe is a Toe-Tapping Delight

This is a deliciously fun, feel good show, a great way to welcome in spring. The Playhouse, by the way, has its own “Sweet Moe” drink special at the bar. Don’t forget to order one in advance for intermission.

Where Can I See Five Guys Named Moe?

The Winter Park Playhouse is producing Five Guys Named Moe now through April 20 at their theater at 711 Orange Ave. in Winter Park. Performances are on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Friday and Saturday matinee shows at 2 p.m. and select Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. 

Ticket prices are $46 for evening shows ($43 for seniors), $39 for matinees, and $20 for students aged 15-25, active military and theatrical industry professionals. Student rush “$10@10” offers $10 tickets (for students 25 years and younger) are available 10 minutes prior to a performance when seats are available.

To purchase tickets or for more information call the box office at 407-645-0145 or visit online at www.winterparkplayhouse.org . 

Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the terrifying book “Bloody Rabbit”. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com.

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