It’s easy to see why Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe would decide to reprise a musical performed by the company in an earlier season, Five Guys Named Moe. The show is chockfull of good songs by jazz/R&B man Louis Jordan and various collaborators, and, in this production directed and choreographed by Harry Bryce, it’s fast-moving, ultra-energetic and exuberantly performed by its all-male cast.
That doesn’t hide the fact that the conceit of the show is beyond slender. It centers on a young man named Nomax (Mikeyy Mendez), who’s spending a hard night drinking after a fight with his girlfriend. Out of his radio pop the five guys, ready to advise him through song about what he should do to solve his female troubles. The advice isn’t always all that clear, and it’s not much to build a show around, but audience members aren’t likely to care about that when they can be moving and grooving in their seats to numbers like Pettin’ and Pokin’, Saturday Night Fish Fry, Let the Good Times Roll, and Reet, Petite and Gone.
In some cases, the audience is encouraged to get up out of those seats as well, as in the Act I closing number Push Ka Pi Shi Pie, which ends in a conga line headed for drinks at intermission. The lyrics may be nonsense, but the calypso beat is hard to resist.
The cast is a strong one, and everybody gets a chance to demonstrate their talent, both on leads and in ensemble harmonies. Besides Mendez as Nomax, we have returning WBTT favorites like Leon S. Pitts II (Big Moe, who’s pretty fierce on Caldonia), Earley Dean (Four-Eyed Moe, who’s always engaging, and particularly funny on Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens and Look Out, Sister), and Porter L Anderson III (No Moe, who along with castmate Donald Frison as Little Moe provides some scintillating dance moves). Newcomer D. William Hughes (Eat Moe) has the running gag of always being hungry, but otherwise the characters don’t really possess much to distinguish them as individuals.
What matters, though, is the music, and it’s finely rendered by all, backed by the leadership of music director LaTerry Butler and his band and looking good in colorful jackets and ties (in Act 1) and cool whites (in Act II) by designer Alice Bee. Five Guys Named Moe is an alternately rocking and swinging evening, and it’s bound to leave theatergoers in a satisfied state of mind.
Five Guys Named Moe continues through April 3; for tickets call 366-1505 or go to wbttroupe.org.