Monday, 24 July 2017

Review The Blues Brothers - Summer Special

The Blues Brothers - Summer Special
Based on the characters and film written by Dan Ackroyd and John Belushi

Live, Thrive And Survive

"It is what it is ...", that was the verdict in the ladies' toilet after the show as we strangers stood by the  sinks discussing the show.

Less a musical or a cabaret and more a tribute show, it trades of course on the NBC's Saturday Night Live musical sketch-turned-hit 1980 movie with Dan Ackroyd and the late John Belushi, along with the iconic black suits, pork pie hats and those sunglasses. .

So you know what you're getting -  a string of well-known songs, loud and raucous which won't tax many brain cells as band and singers blast out the songs. And of course it's clean-living, enjoyable stuff without the substance abuse which accompanied the making of the movie.

And, if as director John Landis said, it was the first movie to gross more in the overseas, than the American domestic, market it's understandable that it's also spawned numerous "official" and "unofficial" shows.

But in the words of the production team, this show has "the blessing of the team behind the original Blues Brothers and ...also includes material created under the guidance of Judith Belushi [co-creator's John Belushi's widow]."

Joshua Mumby, who also directs, is Elwood Blues, the tall harmonica-playing thin one, and roly-poly tumbling David Kristopher-Brown is Jake Blues. A slick pair of sassy backing singers the Stax Sisters also have solo turns,  blonde Hannah Kee and brunette Helen Hart. While Arnold Mabhena channels his Cab Calloway, Ray Charles and James Brown complete the singing line up.

Above are three signs of The Blues Brothers' haunts - Bob's Country Bunker, Palace Hotel and Soul Food Cafe. But these are all static acknowledgments of the movie and there's no repartee we heard regarding The Hippodrome which may have made us feel that The Blue Brothers had landed in the UK and at a musically historic venue.  

The songs come thick and fast starting with Steve Winwood's Gimme Some Loving, then Hey Bartender before whipping it up with Rollin' Rollin' Rollin' from the 1950s cowboy series Rawhide, Hart's rendition of Aretha Franklin's and Ted White's  Think (Freedom).and then back to the Brothers for Taj Mahal's and James Rachell's She Caught The Katy and so it goes on .

The voices are obviously powerful, the dancing (choreographer Lily Howkins) and band energetic but it does become one damn song after another (with an interval). The format itself feels rather dated and just a little bit tired. Yes, there are more buzzy interludes when we're treated to giant bumble bee costumes in Slim Harpo's I'm A King Bee, but we sense this is the umpteenth performance with the same gag.

The band led by James Robert Ball on piano boasts electric guitars, drums, trombone, trumpet, saxophone keep up the pace and the volume and join gamely in the summer time theme when its time to don the Hawaiian shirts and garlands with a touch of Mexican to boot. So it's all pretty polished holiday camp jollity.   

If you're a fan of The Blues Brothers, you might very well, do the Twist, the Swim, the Monkey, the Mashed Potato and the Tailfeather to get tickets. Otherwise it's an amber light perfectly serviceable show which could do with a bit of a refresher. But hey, to paraphrase a song, everybody needs somebody or something to love ...  It is what it is ...

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