Five Guys is one of the original "have a good time" jukebox shows in the West End, and the pleasure of seeing it again is like that of seeing an old friend: familiar, heart-warming, with faults you don't mind living with for a couple of hours.
The show was first produced at Theatre Royal, Stratford East, 20 years ago, with Clarke Peters playing Nomax, an old grumpy guts whose woman gone and left him. And here he is again, flushed with untold fame and riches from The Wire on television, but just the same old likeable Clarke, revelling in the Louis Jordan jazz songs, geeing up his five zoot-suited Moe men.
Same show, same problem: the book is virtually non-existent. Slumped in his room, swigging from the bottle, Nomax is sucked down his own record player. The stage revolves, and there are the five guys singing up a storm with six musicians setting the pace.
Nomax is cheered up inordinately by "Early in the Morning," "Saturday Night Fish Fry" and "Choo, Choo Ch'boogie," and so are we, though the plump girl next to me went a bit quiet during "I Like 'Em Fat Like That".
The scene turns into show time at the Funky Butt club, with the Moes adding white tuxedos to their pastel pants; and diverting from blues into a funky chicken routine. Back home, the needle is stuck on the vinyl and Nomax is back on the track.
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