Review by Gail Burns and Larry Murray
Gail Burns: Looks like we pulled a theatrical double-header yesterday seeing two shows in one trip. And the first one, Five Guys Named Moe at the Cohoes Music Hall, was a musical I hadn’t seen before.
Larry Murray: The show is based on the pioneering music of Louis Jordan (1908-1975) who was known as The King of the Jukebox. While it doesn’t seem all that revolutionary today, it was the badass music of its day. It ruled its particular musical domain from the late 1930′s to the early 1950′s when rock and roll was supposedly “born.” Jordan could be considered a preemie of the genre, often topping what Billboard then called the “race” charts.
Gail: It is really sad that Louis Jordan’s recordings have fallen into semi-oblivion even after the success of this jukebox musical in London and New York in the early 1990′s. Part of the reason is undoubtedly racial. I recently enjoyed a fascinating biography of a contemporary of Jordan’s, Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915-1973) on PBS (Click Here for Program). Like Jordan, Tharpe is credited with helping to birth rock and roll and I had never heard of her. I am pretty sure I would have grown up playing their records if they had been white.
Larry: My feet are still tapping out the great melodies from the swinging 1930′s and feeding off all that tremendous energy of five, no wait, six guys on stage. The video embedded at the very top of this page showcases the original Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five as they belt out the original song that is now the title of the show.
The show begins with just one guy on stage, Nomax (Ariel Padilla), who is down and blue over a breakup with his girlfriend, Lorraine. The raucous Five Guys Named Moe reveal themselves early on as the dissolute Nomax tries to cope with the pain of his breakup. The title song allows the quintet to introduce themselves to the audience as Big Moe (Daniel Belnavis), Little Moe (Avionace), No Moe (Sheldon Henry), Four-Eyes Moe (Daryl Stewart) and Eat Moe (Marc-Sally Saint-Fleur). They then get to work lifting Nomax’s spirits.