Five Guys Named Moe (3 stars)

The good times roll in this high-energy romp through the hits of Louis Jordan

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Five Guys Named Moe

credit: Duncan McGlynn

Originally produced in 1990, Five Guys Named Moe is a showcase of hits by Louis Jordan, whose best-known tunes include 'Let The Good Times Roll' and 'Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby'. Directed by Paulette Randall and with a book by Clark 'Lester Freeman' Peters, the award-winning colourful musical has been revived this festive season as part of Edinburgh's Christmas celebrations.

Nomax (Matt Mills), already on-stage swigging a beer as we take our seats, has had a fight with his girlfriend Lorraine. He's singing along to the radio in his apartment when the Five Moes – Big Moe, Little Moe, Eat Moe, Four-eyed Moe and Know Moe – arrive bearing musical wisdom to help get him back on track.

Some of the early songs betray Jordan's age, with chauvinistic numbers depicting women as manipulative or telling them to not 'get messy' on a night out sitting a bit heavy with the audience. Once Big Moe makes a quip to Nomax about 'not understanding satire', the mood noticeably lifts.

The harmonies from the five Moe's are fantastic, while Nomax (Matt Mills) offers tender moments in his solos. And while the script lacks a developed storyline we can really get behind, leaving a gap where a musical would usually pull at the heart strings, the direction continuously shakes things up. There are, for instance, subtle touches of magic – blink and you'll miss Big Moe (Cameron Johnson) make a beer bottle disappear. Audience involvement gets the party-atmosphere going, with lyrics scattered into the audience so we can sing along to calypso number 'Push Ka Pi Shi Pie'. There's even a conveyor belt stage, bringing the actors up close to the audience.

In the second half, the action moves to the delightfully named Funky Butt Club, and the back-to-back numbers make more sense in the context of the five Moes performing a live show. We're treated to one of the funniest songs in the show, 'Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens', and Big Moe pours every emotion into a powerful rendition of 'Caldonia'. They also have the chance to really bust out the moves: Eat Moe (Emile Ruddock) and Four-Eyed Moe's (Spin) tabletop tap dance routine is breathtaking.

Despite its festive billing there isn't a single reference to Christmas in Five Guys Named Moe, but the high-energy romp with a message of 'Let The Good Times Roll' is well suited to the season.

Festival Square Theatre, Edinburgh, until 7 Jan 2017.

Five Guys Named Moe

Award-winning musical featuring original jazz songs by Louis Jordan. Presented by Underbelly in association with Cameron Mackintosh.

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