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Five Moe's amuses with laughs, crowd interaction

Five Guys Named Moe
Wilbur Theatre.
246 Tremont St., Boston.
Through Oct. 31.
Tues.-Sat. 8 p.m.,
matinees Thurs. and Sat. 2 p.m., Sun. 3 p.m.

By Kaiteh Tao

Big Moe, Little Moe, No Moe, Four-Eyed Moe, and Eat Moe. Collectively, they are the Five Guys Named Moe, a delightful musical that is currently playing at the 1200-seat Wilbur Theatre in Boston's famed Theater District. Based loosely upon the life and music of Louis Jordan, the "Jump Blue's King", the musical attempts to use a simple story line to showcase what is clearly a song-and-dance cabaret. If the word musical implies stuffy cultural event to you, then think again. Five Guys Named Moe redefines the traditional setup of stage performers doing their stuff in front of the audience. Instead, the talented cast makes a deep-hearted attempt to get the audience involved in the show.

There is no pit orchestra or conductor driving the musical. The audience is treated instead to the artistry of a traditional jazz band, with the steady rhythm of Ron McWhorter on bass and Jeffrey Neal on drums thumping along, while the music director, Hilton C. Felton, bangs out intricate piano chords.

The main character, Nomax, played by the earnest Monroe Kent, is sitting by the radio smoking and sulking to the blues in sadness after his girlfriend has dumped him. The radio, which is his only companion, seems to sympathize as it bellows out deep, soulful tunes.

All of a sudden, a smoke-filled explosion brings out five outrageously dressed men who introduce themselves as the Five Guys named Moe. With songs like the title song "Beware, Brother, Beware" and "I Like 'Em Fat Like That", each of the characters takes the time to introduce his colorful personality to Nomax while warning him about the perils of serious relationships. Before Nomax has a chance to take them seriously, however, Little Moe is already polling the audience to see how many people have gone through failed relationships. He then turns and smirks at Nomax, exclaiming, "See what I mean?". Eat Moe, played by the jolly understudy, D' Ambroise Boyd, then introduces himself, while complaining about his constant craving for more food. It takes a big guy to fulfill a role like this, and Mr. Boyd clearly fits the job well, taking everything lightheartedly while delighting both the audience and himself in the wild revelry.

What happens next is quite unexpected. Big Moe challenges the audience to help him sing the next song, pitting those in the orchestra section against those sitting near the balconies. One local couple in a private box, got more than they bargained for when Eat Moe invaded their box, and had them serenade the entire theater. Eat Moe then returns to the aisles and begins grabbing people to join him in a conga line boggling up and down the aisles of the Wilbur Theatre.

The second act opens with Nomax singing "What's the Use of Getting Sober, if You're Only Going to Get Drunk again." Despite all the revelry, Nomax is still down for he has not gotten back his girlfriend. Though the first act sported humorous songs about the dangers of women and serious relationships, the Moe's even the score in the second act when they invite three women from the audience to join them on stage to comment about men. Again a poll is taken to see how many women are either married or involved in serious relationships. The mood quickly lightens when each of the Moe's performs a solo song and dance act under the setting of a moon-lit jazz club. Before long, No Moe has the audience singing the classic Fleecie Moore tune "Caldonia" along with him.

Needless to say, Five Guys Named Moe is one of the most pleasant musicals of the year. Its combination of audience participation, and good old fashioned song and dance, constantly delights the audience, while its well-delivered jokes and one-liners poke fun at traditional sexual stereotypes. As an added bonus, the Wilbur Theatre is offering a College Discount Program on Tuesday through Thursday performances with a 50 percent discount on all tickets for students who arrive an hour before the show and present a college ID. Ticket prices range from $15.00 to $47.50. Unfortunately, to qualify for the collegiate discount, tickets must be paid for with cash, but with prices like these it is well worth the experience.