Friday, March 26, 2004

Five Guys Named Moe (Beck Center)

Cespedes pulls off another coup with 'FIVE GUYS NAMED MOE'

Musical reviews are hard to make into good theatre. They are a bunch of songs usually held together by a thread of a script. It takes real creativity to do something other than have the singers stand around singing and maybe dancing around a little. Well, fortunately for The Beck Center, they have that creative director/choreographer. His name is Martin Cespedes.

Those who saw Beck’s ‘SMOKEY JOE’S CAFÉ’ which won a Times Tribute Award last year for both the production and it’s director/choreographer, know what a wonder that production was. Well, Cespedes has done it again with his production of ‘FIVE GUYS NAMED MOE,” He lets out all the stops as he takes on a musical journey based on the music of Louis Jordan. He does it so well that at the curtain call on Sunday afternoon, which was filled with “mature” citizens, the audience was on their feet screaming for more.

In the hands of a lesser director/choreographer, cast, and musical ensemble, this could have been a long and lethal experience. The story is trite, some of the musical sounds repetitive, but it matters little, you won’t even think about it.

It’s not even worth relating the so-called story. It’s more important that you know the show contains such songs as “Messy Bessy,” “I Know What I’ve Got,” “Caledonia,” and “Is You Is.” The music covers the spectrum of sound. There’s a little jazz, a little rock, a little Calypso, a ballad or two, and great harmony songs. You’ll be delighted by “I Like Them Fat Like That!” and “Saturday Night Fish Fry.”

The cast is uniformly excellent. Lester Currie, Devon Settles, Geoffrey Short, Aric Calhoun and Lawrence Maurice all have a great time, sing well, and move to some creative dance steps. Kyle Primous, as No Max, the participant supposedly not a member of the Moe singing quartet, is phenomenal. He dances, he sings, he acts, he mimes—all extremely well.

As an audience member you just won’t sit and watch. You may find yourself on stage getting sung to by members of the cast. You might “volunteer” to join a Congo line that snakes through the theatre. (Okay, here’s one flaw…that segment was way too long!)

Cespedes ignites the stage with creative and disciplined choreography. David Anthony Williams, the musical director, has these guys wailing. His orchestra doesn’t hit a sour note. Don McBride’s scenic design, consisting of floating radio dials, makes a perfect setting for the goings on. Sharon Stark’s costumes are a hoot! Erik Seidel’s lighting and Casey Jones’ sound design add a strong positive dimension to the show.

Hurrah Martin! Hurrah cast! Hurrah crew!

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: If you miss ‘FIVE GUYS NAMED JOE’ you’ll be very, very sorry as it’s one of this theatre year’s highlights!