Brothers still got the blues

The All New Tribute to The Blues Brothers

Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton

*****

LIVE theatre serves many purposes.  It can challenge, provoke, inspire, exilerate, amuse and educate. Sometimes, though, it is just there to entertain.

No sub plots, no twists – just solid, hum dinging entertainment  that puts a smile on your face and makes you forget , for a while at least, the daily grind.  This show falls firmly in that category and deserves to be seen.

The Blues Brothers started life back in 1978 as a warm up act on the U.S TV show, Saturday Night live. Audiences warmed to the music but more especially to the two frontmen , John Belushi and Dan Akroyd. 

A film followed in 1980  - initially a box office flop and hugely over budget thanks mainly to the most expensive car ‘pile up' scene ever shot– but which steadily gained cult status over the years and is now seen by many as a classic.

A stage show , ‘A Tribute To The Blues Brothers' opened in London in 1996 and various incarnations have toured since. This particular one would take some beating.

It works because all it's elements are so strong. The sound quality is terrific , the set is eye catching, the musicians are superb and the performers are fizzing with energy throughout. It's almost impossible not to clap along at points  - even the St John ambulance crew along the row from me were on their feet and I'm guessing they have seen a few shows in their time!

HUGE STRENGTH

Throughout all the fun and banter, though, is the show's huge strength – the songs.. Whilst some musicals are getting a little tired now, there are  certain numbers  that are written so well, they just don't date.  This show is full of them – and all sung with soul and gusto aplenty.

There are, of course, the signature songs that people remember – ‘ Everybody'  , ‘Gimme Some lovin' ‘ Soul Man' ‘ Sweet Home Chicago' and ‘ Flip Flop Fly' to name but five. But other songs impress just as much  . The  belting ‘ Shotgun Blues' almost took the roof off (sublime guitar playing from Rufus Ruffell) , an accapella ‘Under The Boardwalk' tugged at heartstrings  and  Aretha Franklin's ‘Think' was done more than justice by ‘Bluette' , Alexus Ruth.

Aside from some genuinely funny banter between songs and a wonderfully inventive opening to the show, this is, to all intents and purposes, a concert. But that's fine – with music this good you don't want too many gaps in between.

Brad Henshaw and Daniel Fletcher have genuine chemistry as the brothers ‘on a mission from God' .  These are physically demanding roles as well as vocally so. Singing songs after jumping around on a trampette can be no easy task – but they make it seem effortless.  Mention, too, must be made of the glorious backing singers/ dancers – ‘The Bluettes'. Jocasta Almgill, Alexus Ruth and Victoria Goddard were a feast of shimmying shoulders, high kicks and glitzy dresses  - and all of them with powerhouse voices to die for.

People on their feet dancing in the aisles – can't be bad for a Monday night in Wolverhampton.  They loved it. I loved it. You'll love it. Go and see it while tickets remain. Runs till 28-05-11.

Tom Roberts 

 

Something old . . . something blue . . . 

* * * *

THEY'RE back, the two men in black suits, shades and porkpie hats have returned to the Black Country with what is described as the all new original tribute show.

 It is definitely a concert of two halves, a touch disappointing in Act 1 but raising the bar after the interval when Brad Henshaw, playing Jake Blues, and Daniel Fletcher (Elwood) turn up the heat, and the perspiration shows how much effort they are putting in.

 Mick McCarthy gets a mention, and it's just as though the Wolves boss had popped in from nearby Molineux to deliver a 'hair-dryer' rallying call, because the pace increases noticeably and the audience - rather slim on Tuesday - were on their feet joining in the fun.

 It helps, of course, that the second act programme includes some of the brothers' biggest hits, like Under the Broadwalk which was beautifully sung, and followed by Do You Love Me?, Soul Man, Jailhouse Rock and a reprise of Everybody.

 The three Bluettes, Jocasta Almgill, Victoria Goddard and Alexus Ruth offer splendid backing, with the latter giving a memorable perofrmance with Think, and the musicians, directed by David Foster, are top notch.

 Before curtain up Brad and Daniel wander round the stalls, strangely handing out fliers advertising future shows at the theatre, and when the action starts they throw in a few nifty cartwheels as well as some sharp dance steps.The remarkable men in black continue delivering the blues until Saturday night 28-05-11.

Paul Marston 

Home Grand  Reviews A-Z Reviews by Theatre