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Review: Five Guys Named Moe ***

Michael Cox reviews a production that is 'saved by the excellent music and talented cast'.

Nomax has screwed up. He’s alone in a hotel room, sulking. His girlfriend has kicked him out, and he’s hit rock bottom. Drinking and listening to music, things are looking bleak…until the Five Moes magically appear in order to set him straight.

And that’s as much of a plot as you’re going to get from Five Guys Named Moe. In reality, it is nothing more than an excuse to stage a collection of songs from Louis Jordan. But what songs they are: cheeky, catchy and sassy as hell, every song is a knockout that thrives in live performance.

In truth there is much to like about this, a new production of the West End/Broadway hit from the 90s. Director Paulette Randall’s production zips along at a quick pace: it is bright, bursting with energy and filled with creative ideas. Between sharp choreography, clever magic tricks and impressive design, the production looks terrific.

The success of Five Guys hinges on its performances, and it’s here that a few seams can be seen. All six principal performers have excellent performance skills: they sing and dance well, and each has a few key moments to shine. However, some feel much more comfortable in their roles than others, meaning that while the songs are all executed well, some of the actors haven’t quite perfected their character’s personas. Most successful are Cameron Johnson’s towering Big Moe, Spin’s cheeky Four-Eyed Moe and Matt Mills’ charismatic lynchpin Nomax.

If there is a flaw, it is one that comes with a bit of frustrating irony: the pillars that hold up the Spiegeltent. The lighting design that is reflected off the pillars is truly beautiful, but the pillars themselves make any seat not in the expensive centre section or the front-facing area into partial view seats: quite unfortunate when considering the price these seats are going for. While some seats are officially designated ‘partial view’, the majority of them are full priced, even if much of the production from these seats looks more like Three Guys Named Moe.

All of this results in a show that is good enough but should be better. Perhaps with a few more runs under the company’s belt, the full cast will be firing on all cylinders. And hopefully sightline issues can somehow be better resolved. But as it stands now, Five Guys Named Moe is a production that is saved by the excellent music and talented cast rather than being the promised musical triumph it could be.

Five Guys Named Moe is performing at the Festival Square Theatre until January 7, 2017.

Tags: theatre music

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