Five Guys,’ a jazz club and no story in sight

By By Lisa Anderson

By Lisa Anderson

Great shows don’t always rely on great stories, as “Five Guys Named Moe” clearly demonstrates.

Pioneer Theatre’s current play opens with a man pacing around his apartment, smoking a cigarette, and the audience is drawn into a mood of expectancy. The potential energy of the show is buzzing and popping just out of reach, as if it is going to burst out of the set around him. And it does, before long, in the form of five jazz musicians-all named Moe, incidentally.

From the moment they appear, the play becomes a fast and furiously fun venture into the life of a serially single man in 1940s New York City. Nomax (Andre Gardner) is resistant to change, a stubborn man who believes that drinking away his days might just be the path to happiness. Each of the five Moes has a different take on what Nomax should be doing, but they all agree on a few things he shouldn’t be doing. By about the fourth song he is starting to consider their wisdom.

“Five Guys'” storyline is very loose, constructed around 24 hit songs by the jazz saxophonist Louis Jordan, a well-known bandleader, musician and composer in the ’40s. It is a showcase of his biggest hits, with the story relegated almost to the level of incidental. It’s not a deep, thought-provoking piece, but it provides the audience with laughs and levity nevertheless.

Even though five Moes plus one lost soul equals six, their energy and presence are so big that you’ll find yourself checking and rechecking the program to be sure they don’t number more.

Little Moe (Keldon LaVar Price) shows us his soft spot for curvaceous girls with a number called “I Like ‘Em Fat Like That,” even if his band mates don’t seem to agree.

No Moe (Erick Pinnick) treats audiences to a wonderful tap solo, and Eat Moe (Juson Williams) is constantly preoccupied with where he will find his next snack or meal. Big Moe (Tony Perry) stands out as the leader of the group, the one to keep them all focused; Jason Veasey’s Four-Eyed Moe rounds out the quintet.

It was impossible not to tap a foot, and many people even clapped along with the beat. There was a sing-a-long at one point, with song sheets floating down like confetti, and I even got my moment on stage-but you’ll have to go see the show if you want to know how!