Still singing the blues

The Blues Brothers

Belgrade Theatre Coventry

****

‘We've got a full tank of gas, a half-pack of cigarettes, it's dark and we're wearing shades.'

Every journey I make starts with those words and it's also the starting point – approximately – for this wonderful tribute to John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd as Jake and Elwood Blues on a mission from God to collect money for their erstwhile home The Rock island orphanage in Chicago's South Side.

As an act it crept into our consciousness in the 1970s and, like the earworm that the wonderful blues and soul music recreates here, it stays long after the last strains have died down.

You probably know the film and can possibly quote long passages from the script – so can I!. The car chase at the end which apparently took the film 11m dollars over its not ungenerous budget is iconic and involved 60 police cars, and a Ford Pinto dropped from a helicopter a mile up in the sky!

This production goes back further back than the film to the initial series on Saturday Night Live on NBC which starred not only Belushi and Ackroyd as relative unknowns –definitely as blues singers – but also Chevy Chase, Steve Martin, Christopher Guest (director of spoofs such as A Mighty Wind, Best of Breed) and more.

The music from Jake (Brad Henshaw – who also directed) and Elwood (Chris Chandler) was fantastic, with live blues band, the Bluettes backing singers/dancers (Alexus Ruth, Jenesssa Qua, Jenny Fitzpatrick) energetic and great singers.

My favourite by a long way was Jake's rendition of Lennon and McCartney's With a Little Help from my Friends – dressed as a bee complete with DeeleyBopper antenna. The audience loved the recreation of the scene in Bob's Country Bunker Illinois where only a mesh screen separates them from certain death unless they can do some Country and Western – ‘we got both kinds'!

So there you have it – hugely energetic and enjoyable. The dance sequences between Jake and Elwood make amazing viewing and the whole set as a wonderfully smokey blues club is a vestige from a bygone age. If the blues has got you, try this as a cure. You won't be disappointed. To 04-05-13.

Jane Howard 

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