Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

February 3, 2022

REVIEW: Playhouse on Park, Five Guys Named Moe

Playhouse on Park, West Hartford, CT
through February 27, 2022
By Stuart W. Gamble
Sometimes thinly plotted music revues can be just okay. Playhouse on Park's production of "Five Guys Named Moe" does not fit that description. This production, both directed and choreographed, by Brittney Griffen is simply wonderful. Full of lively, upbeat, charming tunes sung, danced, and acted by a fabulous ensemble cast, POP's current production is a surefire antidote to the winter blues and COVID-related dread.

Clark Peters’ musical features the greatest hits of composer Louis Jordan. The story begins with Nomax (Marcus Canada) sitting alone by a vintage radio with a bottle of scotch on hand, singing the bluesy “It’s Early in the Morning”. Troubled by romantic angst, Nomax is suddenly visited by Five guys named Moe, who are seen from behind a sheer curtain, also revealing a music ensemble of top-notch musicians on percussion, piano/keyboard, trumpet, bass, reeds, and trombone.

"The Five Guys..." includes Eat Moe (Arnold Harper), Four-Eyed Moe (Jacquez Linder-Long), Big Moe (Darren Lorenzo), Little Moe (Devin Price),  and No Moe (Josh Walker). These extremely talented actors/singers/dancers work beautifully together. Their timing (both musical and comedic) is seamless, moving from banter of songs to fancy foot work. Kudos to the guys in what is a fine display of a truly ensemble performance. Although Canada has the less flashy role, his pitch-perfect tenor resonates the central character’s emotional dilemmas.

The score’s 25 songs, which are utilized to try to persuade Canada's character Nomax into changing his bad habits (mainly drinking and smoking to excess), are all finely sung by the superb cast. Personal favorites are “I Like ‘em Fat Like That” featuring all the Moes, the call-and-response “Caledonia” led by Lorenzo, and the Act I closer and sing-along Calypso “Push Ka Pi Shi Pie”. Most impressive is Harper’s hilarious “Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens” (complete with plumage) and his utterly heart-rending solo “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying” sung in a sparse Paris Café designed by James F. Rotondo III.

"Five Guys...s" is a breath of theatrical fresh air. The music (fine work by Music Director Dexter Pettaway Sr.) and performances are ably supported by Vilinda McGregor’s period costumes (especially the sequined blue jackets) and Marcella Barbeau’s mood-enhancing lighting design). "Five Guys..." reminds us of the monumental contributions of African-American musicians and performers, as we celebrate Black History Month in February.