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One Moe Time 

Is the world weighing heavily on your shoulders: Iraq, Korea, Osama bin Laden, biological warfare, the economy, the environment? Has your significant other been giving you the cold shoulder? Did the letter from the insurance company explain that whatever happened isn't covered (see your policy for explanation)?

Well, ladies and gents, there's help available. Or at least, long-lasting symptomatic relief. When I say "long-lasting," I mean it keeps working for several hours after the curtain falls and the applause has finally tapered off.

Five Guys Named Moe are currently dispensing their guaranteed, 100-percent joyful, syncopated panacea from the stage of Le Petit -- and if I was you, I would get in line immediately, because supplies are limited. However, be sure to read the warning notice: This stuff can be habit forming.

Louis Jordan, whose music the show celebrates, is generally credited by musicologists with having steered big band swing in a new direction that became known as rhythm and blues and evolved into rock 'n' roll -- a fact I dutifully repeat, although applying "musicology" to Jordan is like discussing the chemical makeup of Veuve Clicquot. What could be further from the point?

The printed page is hopelessly inadequate to suggest the effervescence of the Jordan's Timpany Five (which, by the way, rarely consisted of five players), but here is a selected reading: "When I get up in the morning,/ there's nothing to brush, but teeth./ When I look in the mirror,/ there's nothing to comb, but hair./ And when I sit down to breakfast,/ there's nothing to eat, but food./ Life is so peculiar,/ but why sit home and brood?"

The Mad Hatter couldn't have put it better. And The Red Queen, who had to keep running faster and faster just to stay in the same place, would have bestowed a knighthood on these melodious zanies.

The show begins with Nomax (Darrin Nelson) sitting in a bent wood chair, his shirttails out and in his stocking feet. He's got the blues over his girlfriend, Lorraine. He's drinking. He's a mess. Suddenly, magically, the Five Moes materialize from the airwaves in order to straighten him out.

What they've got to offer is a style. To begin with, they are sharp dressers. Each one is in a bright zoot suit, with colored shirts, ties and suspenders. And their sartorial splendor is the physical embodiment of a philosophy of life. They have come to reconnect No Max to a tradition. They are like jive zen Buddhists and they will whack him into enlightenment -- not with a sandal, but with a two-tone saddle shoe.

There's No Moe (Leo Jones), Little Moe (Tywon Morgan), Four-Eyed Moe (Rendell DeBose), Big Moe (Roscoe C. Reddix Jr.) and Eat Moe (Troy Renald Poplous).

They've come out of nowhere to give him Ôsound advice.' The advice is clever and irrefutable. (About courtship: "If she listens when you talk, beware!/ If you turn off the light, and she don't fight, beware!") And the sound is the kind that makes you want to jump out of your seat and dance -- except that you don't want to miss what's going on onstage. The harmonies are tight and often thrilling. And the six-piece band onstage (under the direction of Brandt Blocker) is as hep as any hep cat could desire.

Jordan was a musician with a freewheeling eclectic taste, so we never know where the Moes are going take us. With a wry nod at minstrel shows, they lay a hilarious, high-kilowatt hoedown on us. ("A husband and wife reached a parting of the ways./ The judge gave her the bankroll and gave him 90 days./ That's why I'm safe, sane and single.") A moment later, we're whisked off to Trinidad, and as lyric-bearing confetti falls like manna from heaven, we join in -- or try to -- with the tongue-twister "push ka peeshie pie eh eh."

The dancing (choreographed by JaunŽ Buisson) has an easy, irresistible grace. I don't suppose it would be fair to give an extra tip-of-the-hat to four-eyed Moe's brief, exuberant tap number without mentioning Eat Moe's cartwheel and semi-demi, life-threatening split -- which we are told has raised his vocal range by two octaves.

Along with lesser-known songs, we get all the "best of" stuff, like "Caldonia," "Choo Choo Ch-boogie," "Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens" and the ineffably and enigmatically poetic "Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby?"

Congratulations to director Brandt Blocker, cast and crew for letting the good times roll, moe and moe É and moe and moe and moe.

click to enlarge Nomax (Darrin Nelson, center) gets some needed advice from Four-Eyed Moe (Rendell DeBose), Eat Moe (Troy Renald Poplous), Big Moe (Roscoe C. Reddix Jr.), No Moe (Leo Jones) and Little Moe (Tywon Morgan) in Five Guys Named Moe.
  • Nomax (Darrin Nelson, center) gets some needed advice from Four-Eyed Moe (Rendell DeBose), Eat Moe (Troy Renald Poplous), Big Moe (Roscoe C. Reddix Jr.), No Moe (Leo Jones) and Little Moe (Tywon Morgan) in Five Guys Named Moe.


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