It's criminal - but these brothers left me feeling blue

Review by Paul Nelson


THE revival for touring purposes of The Blues Brothers, is both a success and a flop. I know that seems to be oxymoronic but the fact is it is just so.

The Wimbledon Theatre audience, predisposed to go nuts, yelled at the performers. The show is dated.

I can also say that about South Pacific, My Fair Lady, Chicago, and Kiss Me Kate, but these shows throw a new slant, or an addition to the original, whereas The Blues Brothers is seemingly trapped in a time warp.

It is not choreography or dance to have someone hopping backwards and at the same time kicking out his legs, meanwhile pointing in all directions in order to get us out of our seats (which for my part failed).

It is not amusing to have dialogue like Jesus H tap dancing Christ, shit, and blowjob (I'll spare you the rest of the what they assume to be innuendos) thrown at you from the stage. No amount of charm from the performer can camouflage these remarks. Regrettably, there were youngsters in the audience.

However, the name of the game here is to try to whip the audience into a frenzy of yesteryear, and this the company manage to do.

They do this by instigating a further epidemic of South London Clap. These days you only have to give a Wimbledon audience a hint that their collective hands should beat out a rhythm, in order to reassure those on stage that they are going over big.

Give them an over amplified hand mike, which means that if you don't already know the lyrics of the songs you are in limbo, and the performers assume they are hitting the big time. Alas, they do not.

The only reason for any revival is that it throws at least a glimmer of light on what has gone before. A glimmer of either joyful revelry, criticism, or downright condemnation. Asking for those, means you are asking too much of this show.
It is a mindless ear-bashing two hours.

It even sinks to the level of having a pantomime standby, (yes to the point of dividing up the audience to sing against each other with a song sheet on-stage).

There is also an embarrassing moment when they pick a (planted) singer out of the audience. Anyone with the merest atom of intelligence knows this to be a hoax. Are we to be subjected to this endlessly in the future?

As with the previous show at this theatre, a 'star' has been coerced into appearing in a 'guest spot'.

This time it is Antonio Fargas. For those with a long memory, a TV set and a recording machine, he was Huggy Bear in the American television series Starsky and Hutch.

Here he follows an announcement about Cab Calloway. I could bet that ninety-nine per cent of the audience had no idea who Calloway was. The announcement was met with stunned silence.

However, Fargas then proceeded to perform Minnie The Moocher, rather inadequately, but to thunderous applause. I had to hand it to him, he had showmanship.

I also have to hand it to Simon Foster as Elwood. The man has an amazing amount of energy which covers for the paucity of his material.

I was also sympathetic to Brad Henshaw who played Jake. I don't remember that part being so downmarket. He shone, particularly in Under The Boardwalk, and for once, the audience gave an appreciation that was well deserved.

When the follow spot operators are either rehearsed or replaced and the management realises that miniskirts and knee length boots do nothing but turn men off - in other words get with it and modernise the show, we might have a reason to go to see this version of The Blues Brothers.

In the meantime it's take your own sheet music, with all the amplification you won't hear much, and enjoy yourself - but I have to point out you can do that in any pub that has Karaoke.

No amount of flashing lights and energy (and believe me the performers certainly have energy) can compensate for the fact that to enjoy yourself you can do it almost anywhere without going to see a clapped out production from yesteryear.

To mollify anyone who disagrees with this notice, I must report that the audience, clap and all, enjoyed the evening, as witnessed by their sore hands.

Isn't that a sad reflection on the state of the theatre.