The blues are back in town in the form of ‘The Blues Brothers Christmas Special’ at the Arts Theatre in Covent Garden. ★★★★
It’s a night of rowdy and eclectic music as David Christopher-Brown and Joshua Mumby star as The Blues Brothers. Brown is electric and all over the stage as ‘Joliet’ Jake Blues – he’s practically a dead ringer for a role that was made famous by the late and great John Belushi, and he nails it when he sings the Randy Newman-penned ‘Guilty.’ But he’s really on fire when dressed as a bee for ‘I’m a King Bee.’ Mumby’s time to shine, in the role of Dan Aykroyd, is when he sings the tune ‘Rubber Biscuit.’ It’s a mesmerising tune done with skill needed to sing a relentless strings of words with a deep voice in one big mush up, and Mumby does it brilliantly. Google the song on YouTube and you will see how hard it is to pull off. And together, as The Blue Brothers, Brown and Mumby plow their way through classic songs such as ‘Gimme Some Lovin,’ ‘Jailhouse Rock,’ and the song The Blues Brothers are most identified with – ‘Soul Man.’
But it’s not just The Blues Brothers who are part of the show. We are treated to the energetic Simon Ray-Harvey in his triplet role as Ray Charles, James Brown and Cab Colloway, singing ‘Minnie the Moocher.’
His performances are nicely intertwined with The Brothers performances. If that was not enough, T’Shan Williams brings the requisite female vocals in her dual roles as part of the backing up Stax Sisters (which also includes Hannah Kee and Sasi Strallen) and in her solo performance as Aretha Franklin singing ‘Respect.’ She’s got the lungs and the voice to overpower everyone in show, including her fellow Sisters, who can’t quite match her in the singing department but are able enough.
The Blues Brothers Show was created back in 2009 at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, with Brown and Mumby as its leads since then. It’s a show that has been approved by Judy Belushi (John’s wife) and Dan Aykroyd, and according to the press notes, none of the productions are the same as the previous ones.
New songs, choreography, direction, and design are constantly changed with each production to keep the spirit alive and fresh. In this reincarnation, directed by Mumby, it’s a show full of energy and music. And without an interval, we are treated to 90 minutes of songs that doesn’t dull for a moment. There’s so much energy on stage that it might leave you exhausted by the end. The show doesn’t have a story to tell, just like similar successful jukebox musicals (Let it Be, Sunny Afternoon and We Will Rock You), but its success lies in the musical performances of the leads in recreating the sounds and look of the singers they are performing as. It’s a show that will lift your spirits up and get you dancing in the aisles, at the insistence of The Brothers themselves.
To book tickets for The Blues Brothers Christmas Special, which is playing until Sunday, January 10th, please click here
Reviewed by Tim Baros
Tim Baros writes film and theatre articles/ reviews for Pride Life and The American magazines and websites, as well as for Hereisthecity.com, Blu-RayDefinition.com and TheGayUK.com. He has also written for In Touch and TNT Magazines, SquareMile.com and LatinoLife.co.uk. He is a voting member for the UK Regional Critics Circle and the Gay & Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association (GALECA – of which he is the UK representative). In addition, he has produced and directed two films: The Shirt and Rex Melville Desire: The Musical.