Friday, November 21, 2014

Five Guys Named Moe - Arena Stage - Nov 20 2014

Five Guys Named Moe - The Arena Stage is one of the finer DC theatrical institutions and is celebrating its 65 years of presenting fine theater, including several musicals in recent years that have been quite wonderful and a great historical connection of the history of rock'n'roll with the present rock scene in DC.

This musical is yet another link in the long chain of rock'n'roll, yet goes back a bit further than the usual rock origins and has deeper roots to blues and jazz. This is the music of Louis Jordan, 'The King of the Jukebox', who was quite popular in the middle of the 20th Century and had a versatile style that eased blues and jazz into a popular form that lays the roots for rock and also makes for fine musical theater.

The play features a character named Nomax who has the blues over girlfriend problems. In his imagination, the characters from the Jordan song 'Five Guys Named Moe' come to life out of his radio and through Jordan's music walk him through the ups and downs of life and relationships. The device is quite simple and with not much new ground being broken here, yet still has an inner strength due to the focus on this central character. Kevin McAllister in the role both has fine vocal moments as well as a low key acting style that is often upstage behind the action of the five Moes and makes for excellent theater.

The set is clean and bright with the band upstage center allowing the Moes to run around on steps all around and above them with plenty of room up front for dancing. Everything is quick and keeps the audience on their toes as the songs keep coming. The performers are all well cast and show great personality and enough characterization to make for a well rounded presentation. There is some calypso music, theatrical song stories, and plenty of dancing including tap and audience participation. The crowd clearly had fun as that is ultimately the main theme of this presentation. Well that, and Nomax's more thorough understanding of the path to make his relationship with his girlfriend work.

As I have said many times before, I fully encourage club going music fans to branch out into musical theater, dance, and the vast array of arts available in DC. For me, a theater experience like this makes important connections with the music I see created by young bands in front of a few dozen people in a small dark club. And 'Five Guys Named Moe' is a well performed and well defined link in this long chain.

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