Los Angeles Theater Preview: FIVE GUYS NAMED MOE (Ebony Repertory Company)

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by Tony Frankel on March 8, 2017

in Theater-Los Angeles


Get ready, cats. The best musical revue since Ain’t Misbehavin’ is coming to Los Angeles, and I’m warning you well in advance: I promise you–yep, promise–that you will kick yourself if you miss Five Guys Named Moe, which plays Ebony Rep May 18 – June 11, 2017. The joint’s gonna jump in this jukebox tribute to a guy who, mysteriously, is not a familiar name in the annals of American music. This major Equity revival of the 1992 Broadway smash has on board Obba Babatundé, the terrific and incredibly personable triple-threat Tony-nominee from Dreamgirls; Reginald VelJohnson, who many will remember from the Die Hard films and TV series Family Matters; the original Broadway production’s Music Director & Conductor & Piano Player, Abdul Hamid Royal; and director/choreographer Keith Young. Also in the cast are Eric B. Anthony, Trevon Davis, Rogelio Douglas, Jr., and Jacques C. Smith.

Louis Jordan, the musician acclaimed by such masters as Bill Haley, Chuck Berry and James Brown as the “father of rhythm and blues,” was an influential bandleader in the ’40s whose style and professionalism earned him the respect of peers and audiences alike. His music, certainly as evidenced by this loving show, is very Fats Waller—all syncopated rhythms and catchy lyrics with a smile. I guarantee that most of you will hear songs fresh to your ears, but you won’t easily get them out of your head.

And this show is ALL about the songs. The book by Clarke Peters is pretty simple: Hard-drinking, hard-living Nomax (Babatundé) has lost his girl. He’s in the dumps. Out of his radio appear Five Guys Named Moe (the title of one of Jordan’s most durable hits written by Larry Wynn), who set him straight with a musical revue made out of songs written or made popular by the seminal and pioneering saxophonist and singer, Mr. Jordan. Act I has the Moes teaching him life lessons (“Brother Beware,” ” I Like ‘Em Fat Like That,” “Safe, Sane, and Single”), and Act II is a cabaret act without any dramatic purpose, but wall-to-wall singing and dancing (“Saturday Night Fish Fry,” “Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens,” “Choo Choo Boogie,” “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby”).

And most of you should remember “Caldonia,” which was one of the band’s most enduring hits. Also known as “Caldonia Boogie,” this jump blues song was first recorded in 1945 by Jordan and his Tympany Five (there will be five smokin’ hot musicians under Mr. Royal’s command at Ebony Rep). A version by the great Erskine Hawkins, also in 1945, was described by Billboard magazine as “rock and roll,” the first time that phrase was used in print to describe any style of music. And while this title may be unfamiliar to you, you are sure to have fun with “What’s the Use of Gettin’ Sober (When You’re Gonna Get Drunk Again).”

Producer Wren Brown always puts together incredible shows at the beautiful Nate Holden Performing Arts Center; this is one of L.A.’s best venues for sound, sightlines and comfortable seating. Although I suspect you’ll be blasting out of your seats plenty of times during the show, which doesn’t falter because there isn’t any time to—it never stops moving.

Librettist Clarke Peters wrote: “When Wren Brown reached out to me about Five Guys Named Moe, I knew my fortunes had taken a turn for the better. It’s 25 years for me, and nearly 10 years for Wren at the Ebony Repertory Theatre. I’d hoped the show would become a landmark in our community’s contribution to the great American musical lexicon. Mr. Jordan inspired so many artists across the board, both black and white. Without him, there would be no rock in the roll and less rhythm in our blues. It’s one thing to read about his life, but it’s another to feel him. He always said when he played music he wanted people to have a good time. Five Guys‘ mission is to stay true to that desire. Let the good times roll!”

Five Guys Named Moe
Ebony Rep
Nate Holden Performing Arts Center
4718 West Washington Boulevard
(betweeen La Brea and Crenshaw)
plays May 18 – June 11, 2017
for tickets, call 323-964-9766
or visit Ebony Rep

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Michael M Landman-Karny March 10, 2017 at 5:43 pm

I saw the show 28 years ago in Chicago, featuring a young actor named Michael Shepperd. It’s a fabulous show.


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