Whilst this production is, in all honesty, a glorified concert, it has all the showbiz and pizazz of a full-blown West End musical. There is an attempt to create a loose backstory and this provides an amount of the comedy throughout the production. However, in no way does the performance need a narrative to be a gargantuan success.
There are very few performances that exude the fun and frivolity that this one does. With the undeniably catchy personalities of the characters and the fine tuned routines, there can only be one word to describe Blues Brothers. Live on Stage; and that’s flawless. Whilst I understand that this is extremely high praise, I challenge anyone to experience this show and not leave with a smile from ear to ear.
Kicking off with an announcement of spreading “peace and prosperity throughout the whole planet” the show explodes, with extraordinary lighting displays, in to an exciting rendition of ‘Everybody Needs Somebody to Love’. The experience is totally uplifting and encapsulates the fun that is missing from many day-to-day lives. A full on-stage band, comprised of Trumpet, Tenor Saxophone, Drums, Bass and Keys – with occasional appearances of Harmonica - brings the live concert to life. The musicians include themselves in dance routines and play a range of music, from scat-filled jazz to blues, through Motown and Country & Western. Particularly exceptional solos come from Saxophone player Ricky Mian and guitarist Rufus Ruffell. A trio of fabulous backing singers, named the Bluettes, completes the musical ensemble. Their energy is infectious and draws you in to their rhythm ‘n’ blues world.
I have rarely attended a show, where the audience is on their feet before the interval. Nonetheless, leading gentlemen Brad Henshaw, as Jake, and Chris Chandler, as Elwood, have the audience tapping their feet and shaking their tail feathers as the first half comes to a close. With hits such as ‘Higher and Higher’, ‘Respect’, ‘Do you love me?’, ‘Soul Man’, ‘Think’, ‘Jailhouse Rock’ and more and a barrage of comedic lines to accompany the music, this couldn’t be more of a theatrical triumph.
Characters Jake and Elwood, have a natural rapport with each other and the audience and their voices compliment each other beautifully. Henshaw’s vocals are to die for. Whilst displaying a gravelly tone, they astoundingly wash over you like a dream. Chandler, amazes in a different way with hugely impressive range and harmonic accuracy.
Guest performances from understudy William Hazel, gives the show a fantastic comic tone. His character development and range of facial expressions is spot on, showcasing comedy characters such as Rev. Levi Lovejoy. Another highly amusing aspect of the performance comes with audience participation and inclusion in dance routines during ‘Flip, flop and fly’.
Whilst a small warning to those with sensitive eyes may be appropriate, due to the bright lighting during the show, this spans only a few seconds in total and does not detract from the experience one jot. A bombardment of fantastic costumes, supreme lightshows, frolicsome dance routines and some of the biggest hits out there, Blues Brothers, Live On Stage, truly is the ‘Land of a Thousand Dances’ and is worth every penny. You will leave uplifted and carefree.