When things aren’t going your way, when your girl is going to leave you, when you’ve got money trouble and you need some advice, where do you turn?
If you answered “to an antique radio, out of which appear five characters sharing the wisdom of pre-rock ‘n’ roller Louis Jordan in song,” then you’ve probably already seen Five Guys Named Moe.
The show, which CATCO will present through May 26, finds the down-and-out Nomax up in the wee hours, bemoaning his run of bad luck, which is in truth a run of bad decisions. Big Moe, Four-Eyed Moe, Eat Moe, No Moe and Little Moe happen along to provide comfort and advice by singing rollicking, jazzy Jordan tunes like Is You Is or Is You Ain’t Ma Baby, I Like ’em Fat Like That and Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens.
“Nomax kind of dreams up these guys,” Franklin Grace (Little Moe) told The Beat.
“We each come at him from different perspectives. I’m kind of the ‘tough love.’ Each Moe has a different approach.”
“The Moes come from his drunken imagination,” LaRon Lee Hudson (Four-Eyed Moe) added.
“It’s real parts of Nomax, and we bring out different things to guide his thought processes.”
“They’re all trying to help Nomax and each one gets his star turn,” director Steven C. Anderson said.
“We’re like five little Jiminy Crickets,” Grace joked.
Anderson said Jordan’s music is “a bridge between the swing era and rock ‘n’ roll as we know it,” and Five Guys shapes up like a revue of some of Jordan’s greatest songs. But the storyline allows the inherent fun of many of the songs to shine.
“Rehearsals didn’t even seem like work, they were so fun,” Hudson said.
“Coming in and singing these songs is just a blast.”
The cast members have been encouraged to have fun, and to find ways to make each Moe their own.
“Steven sort of took our personalities as a way to shape the show, and let us add in little bits of ourselves,” Grace said.
“I think there’s a lot of likeness between each of us and the characters we play in the show,” Hudson added.
Five Guys Named Moe opened in London in 1990 and on Broadway in 1992, earning Tony Award nominations for Best Musical and Best Book of a Musical. Successful cast recordings reintroduced Jordan’s groundbreaking music to a new generation.
“I saw the show on Broadway in 1993 and I’ve always wanted to do it,” Anderson said.
The show is the first of three musical productions CATCO will present during its Summer Musical Pack. Forbidden Broadway Hits Vol. 1 and 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee are scheduled for later in the season.