Review: ‘You won’t find a more joyful show in the West End’ ★★★★★ Five Guys Named Moe, Marble Arch Theatre

I’ve got a lot of history with Five Guys Named Moe. I only went to see the original 90s West End production by accident after Piaf starring Elaine Paige was cancelled and I found the Louis Jordan musical at the Lyric Theatre as a last-minute alternative.

And it ignited a love within a musical theatre-loving, trumpet playing teenager, which has endured. The cast recording formed one of the soundtracks of my youth, so when I heard the Clarke Peters’ musical was to be revived once again; I couldn’t wait to be transported back to the magnificent New Orleans nightclub.

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This time a brand new pop-up theatre has been built to house the production, so as soon as you cross the threshold you feel as if you are in another age, with a band playing above the bar on a veranda and an utterly spellbinding atmosphere.

The auditorium itself is much more opulent than the pop-up theatres which were previously used up at Kings Cross too and if you’re very lucky you will be seated in the Bull Ring, with a conveyor belt revolve moving around you throughout the performance.

And what a performance it is, with the classic songs of Louis Jordan – who was known as the King of the Jukebox – expertly played by the onstage band and his clever and funny lyrics given the perfect voice by six wonderful actors at the top of their game.

Five Guys Named Moe follows the story of Nomax (Edward Baruwa), a chap who has broken up with his girlfriend, is down on his luck and has found solace at the bottom of a bottle. A group who emanates from his radio (Ian Carlyle, Idriss Kargbo, Dex Lee, Horace Oliver and Emile Ruddock) sets about changing his ways and saving him from destitution.

Classic like “Choo, Choo, Ch’boogie” and “Push Ka Pi Shi Pie” are given modern vigor with Andrew Wright’s choreography and the cast performs its socks off, leaving you with a sense of elation.

With its stomping numbers and hilarious interplay, you won’t find a more joyful show in the West End.

Five Guys Named Moe is running until 17 February 2018 

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Little Moe, Idriss Kargbo takes our Sugar Rush Quiz

Idriss Kargbo really has had a life on the stage. From playing young Simba in Lion King at an early age, the triple threat performer has hardly been away from the West End and with other credits including Thriller Live and Oliver! under his belt even before he had left school, a career in musical theatre seemed almost inevitable.

Idriss joined the 10th anniversary cast of Wicked last year to portray the Munchkin Boq and is now preparing to play Little Moe in Five Guys Named Moe at the brand new pop-up theatre at Marble Arch.

Idriss took some time off from rehearsals to take our Sugar Rush Quiz.

What are you currently working on?

Five Guys Named Moe

 

What is the one thing that has helped you to become successful? 

Confidence

 

What is your favourite Book?

The Tracy Beaker books by Jacqueline Wilson

 

What are you currently watching on TV? 

I’ve just started to re-watch Sex and the City box sets

 

Would you choose the cinema, theatre or a restaurant for a night out? 

Theatre, always

 

What’s your favourite sweet? 

I would say a fruit pastel

 

What did you want to be when you were a child? 

An actor, performer, musician, all of the entertainment things

 

What was the naughtiest thing you did when you were a child? 

I just didn’t have the time! I remember one time I got detention because I was dared to push over a girl when she came past.

 

What is your proudest achievement to date? 

My proudest achievement to date is being the first black person to play Boq in Wicked.

 

What’s next? 

The world hopefully and everything beyond, but we’ll see.

 

Five Guys Named Moe is running at the Marble Arch Theatre from 29 August until 25 November.  

Nicky’s Showbiz Diary: Critiquing a show you don’t like is a tough job

It’s always difficult to critique a show you know you don’t like. After I’ve seen a couple of versions of something and have been unimpressed by it, I then try my best to avoid future presentations.

For example, I’ve managed to completely sidestep the new West End production of Annie – starring Miranda Hart – and with the announcement this week that Craig Revel Horwood is to take over the role of Miss Hannigan; I will continue to actively avoid the Piccadilly Theatre until something more interesting comes along. It’s not that I don’t like Craig – he is a really lovely person – but having seen Annie six times within the last two years and previously witnessed his portrayal in the touring production, I know I can manage without another viewing.

There are lots of other shows too, which I would quite happily never see again like South Pacific (in my opinion, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s worse show), 42nd Street (rubbish story and a dull score) and The Sound of Music (or the Sound of Mucus as I call it). It’s not that it’s a bad musical, but I’ve just seen it far too many times and have started to hope that a curtain call is on Maria’s list of ‘favourite things’.

There are also highly acclaimed shows that I just don’t get, like Ragtime, Godspell and Into the Woods, and loads of plays, which – with my limited intellect – I struggle to understand. Some are just far too worthy for this working class girl and I therefore find them extremely difficult to write about.

There are occasionally things that surprise me however, like last year’s Regent Park Open Air Theatre production of Jesus Christ Superstar. After being part of a detestable amateur production, I despised the classic rock opera, but Tim Sheader’s fab adaptation made me see it through fresh eyes.

I also had my mind changed by Evita last week. I have previously called the musical ‘excreta’ – such was my loathing of it – but after seeing Emma Hatton in the leading role at the Phoenix Theatre I found myself willing to give the story another go.

I am yet to watch any Gilbert and Sullivan operetta however without feeling the need to cry in desperation and don’t get me started on village pantomimes (I endure an average of 15 each season!).

Gosh, it sounds like I don’t like anything doesn’t it? There are lot and lots of shows I love – which is why I’m so lucky to do what I do – and I also get to discover new things, which I wouldn’t ordinarily choose.

Anyway, I had another fab evening at Alice’s Adventures Underground last week (a real recommendation); I finally watched Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour (very good) and enjoyed Evita (a bit!). I also interviewed former Wicked star Idriss Kargbo, who is working on one of my real favourites, Five Guys Named Moe – which will open at the new popup theatre at Marble Arch next month – and I went to the launch of the new season at the New Wimbledon Theatre and had a chat with Kara Lily Hayworth, who will play Cilla Black in the new stage show about the singer’s life.

This week I’m off to interview Carley Stenson – who is currently playing Fantine in Les Misérables (love it!) – at the Queen’s Theatre and then I’m heading down to Underbelly Festival to see Velma Celli’s Iconic: A Brief History of Drag, with special guests Kerry Ellis and Jessie Wallace. I’m then talking to RuPaul’s Drag Race winner Jinkx Monsoon, before chatting to Emma Hatton about her illustrious career and her sensational performance in Evita.

You can follow me on Twitter for regular updates @NickySweetland

Casting announced for Five Guys Named Moe at the brand new Marble Arch Theatre

Underbelly Productions have today announced full casting for a brand new production of Clarke Peters’ Olivier Award-winning and Tony-Award nominated musical, Five Guys Named Moe. The production will open on 14 September 2017 in a new temporary theatre in Marble Arch, London.

Edward Baruwa will play Nomax and the ‘Moes’ will be played by: Ian Carlyle (Four-Eyed Moe), Dex Lee (Know Moe), Idriss Kargbo (Little Moe), Timothy Martin (Big Moe) and Emile Ruddock (Eat Moe).

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Underbelly have also released the first look at how the inside of the new Marble Arch Theatre will look. Specifically designed for the production will be reminiscent of 1940s New Orleans Jazz clubs, occupying the whole space. There will be cabaret table seating in the centre of the space with a drinks table service.

In addition to the theatre, there will be a connecting foyer designed in the style of a New Orleans courtyard with hanging atmospheric foliage, festoon lighting, a beautiful bespoke bar, a performance area for a jazz trio and concession stands selling popcorn, sweets, snacks and merchandise as well as a cloakroom area.

Five Guys Named Moe was first seen at the Theatre Royal Stratford East in 1990, it transferred to the West End and played for four years, subsequently playing on Broadway from 1992. Clarke Peters’ career defining musical features the irresistible hits of trailblazing ‘King of the Jukebox’ Louis Jordan, including Early In The MorningIs You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby, Choo Choo Ch’Boogie and Saturday Night Fish Fry. The soundtrack of soul, blues, gospel and early r ‘n’ b is performed on stage by a live band.

The production, which is to be directed by Peters himself,  is currently booking from 29 August to 25 November 2017, with an Opening Night on 14 September.

Five Guys Named Moe will be directed by Clarke Peters (The Wire, Treme, Person of Interest, Porgy and Bess, The Ice Man Cometh) with musical staging and choreography by Andrew Wright (Half a SixpenceSingin’ in the Rain, Guys and Dolls), inspired by Charles Augins’ original choreography, set and costume design by takis (Side Show, In The Heights, Hairspray, The Good Person of Sichuan), lighting design by Philip Gladwell (The James Plays, Cymbeline, Trainspotting, After Miss Julie, Hairspray), sound design by Ben Harrison (Cabaret, Dreamboats and Petticoats, Dancing in the Streets, The King & I, Starlight Express, Blood Brothers, Soul Sister) and musical supervision from Steve Hill (Fame, RENT, The House That Nat Built, Bent, Hair).

Cameron Mackintosh said: I am really thrilled that Underbelly are producing a brand new production of Five Guys Named Moe in London later this year. It’s a show that brought fun and joy to audiences in the West End for many years so it’s great to see its return for its 25th Anniversary. I am particularly excited that this new production is being staged in a Spiegeltent theatre specifically tailored for Five Guys so that Underbelly’s unique style will give audiences and the show a special intimate experience which will definitely make it the best party in town – a party which I’m delighted to support Underbelly in throwing.”

Clarke Peters said: “It’s a rare and wonderful thing to have the chance to direct a show that not only you have created but also performed in. It’s a show that is very close to my heart and soul and is so much of who I am. It’s an honour to return to it on its 25th Anniversary and reimagine the show in this new theatre space; one which is perfect for creating a closeness and dynamic energy between the story and the audience. Further to this it’s a treat to be working with a fantastic creative team and I can’t wait to transport audiences into the magical world of rhythm and blues. This rhythm will lift one and all from their blues!”

Robert Davis, Westminster City Council Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Business, Culture and Heritage said: “Westminster City Council is delighted to be working with Underbelly Productions to bring Five Guys Named Moe to Marble Arch in its very own, bespoke theatre. Bringing this internationally acclaimed musical to this world-renowned, iconic space is a truly mouth-watering prospect that will further increase the cultural offer available to residents, businesses and visitors throughout the City of Westminster.  To quote the show itself; ‘Let The Good Times Roll!’”

Five Guys Named Moe is at the Marble Arch Theatre from 29 August – 25 November 2017 

Photos by Graham Michael

Our top five classic musical theatre soundtracks you should be listening to now

There are lots of wonderful new musicals about, but there are a few classic soundtracks which we think theatre fans should really add to their playlists. We’ve compiled a list of our top five must listen to soundtracks, which will have your ears enthralled by rapturous rhythms and sumptuous singing, while helping you to prepare for your latest theatrical escapades.

1. Five Guys Named Moe – Original London Cast Recording 

With the announcement that a new production of Clarke Peters’ foot tapping tale is set to return to London in a new pop up venue at Marble Arch later this year, we think you should get your listening gear around the original London Cast recording. Featuring the music of Louis Jordon (and others) this jazzy and fun musical ran in the West End for four years in the early nineties. Those who prefer their ballads need not fear as the soundtrack also contains some truly glorious heart stoppers including “Azure Te”, “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying” and “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby”.

 

2. Carousel – 1993 London Cast Recording 

With both Carousel and Joanna Riding back in the West End, this album from the early nineties is a must. The overture is the stuff of musical theatre dreams and Joanna Riding’s “What’s The Use Of Wond’rin” is simply stunning. In our opinion this was the best ever production of the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical masterpiece.

3. Crazy For You – Original London Cast Recording

This musical shares a lot of songs with An American in Paris (currently wowing audiences at the Dominion Theatre) and with Ruthie Henshall’s  wonderful vocals massaging Gershwin’s score it’s filled with joyful earworms that will put a smile on your face.  We also like the original Broadway Cast recording ( with Jodi Benson as Polly) but recommend a listen of the London cast recording from 1993.

4. Sunset Boulevard – Original London Cast Recording

After the huge success of the ENO production at the London Coliseum last year, Sunset is again riding high. This is among Lord Lloyd Webber’s finest work and with the show touring the UK later this year, it’s worth getting more familiar with some of the gorgeous stanzas. This is the original London cast recording which saw Patti Lupone take on the role of the infamous Norma Desmond.

 

5. Spamalot – Original Broadway Cast Recording

Funny, irreverent and unlike any other show you’re likely to watch, Spamalot is off on a UK tour again later this year. This soundtrack from 2005 has a great mix of styles, with Tim Curry leading the cast, although not necessarily the singing  (he does a bit of a Rex Harrison impression, by speaking along to some of the songs!). The Lady of the Lake ( Sara Ramirez) however gets some proper  standards, which are great for belting along to.

Let us know if you agree, or if you have some of your own to add to the list.