You saw John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd on Saturday Night Live, then witnessed them playing Jake and Elwood Blues in The Blues Brothers movie …
Now, you can see Kieron Lafferty (Elwood) and Wayne Catania (Jake) on stage in The Official Blues Brothers Revue – a show sanctioned by Dan and Judith Belushi Pisano, wife of the late John Belushi. It’s one funny, toe-tapping musical production – which you can catch at Club North Haven.
First, some history. Kieron first met Wayne in the Las Vegas production Legends in Concert, where they were cast as Elwood and Jake Blues. Since then, they both went on to star in the same roles in the hit musical The Blues Brothers Revival, produced by Dan Ackroyd and Judith Belushi Pisano, and written by Judith’s husband, Victor Pisano. Judith, Dan and the John Belushi estate have since officially sanctioned Kieron and Wayne’s own show, The Official Blues Brothers Revue.
Hi Kieron. Describe the show … What format does it take?
The show is really a combination of live concert, live theatre and multimedia, and it pays homage to the characters of Jake and Elwood and their live performances as you would have seen them on Saturday Night Live, the bits they do in the movie and of course, the tours that they did with Steve Martin.
So, really its paying homage to the original characters of Jake and Elwood as they were written and the wonderful, fabulous music they chose to work with – which is always an instant party right there!
What are some of your favourite numbers from the show?
There are a lot of great ones. We do all of the ones popular from the movie: Soul Man is always a great crowd pleaser, Shake Your Tail Feather, Minnie The Moocher – a lot of great stuff. I love the “B” sides that we do: Messin’ With The Kid … all those hard hitting Chicago style Rhythm and Blues, Hey Bartender, All She Wants To Do is Rock. We go back the late ‘40s / early ‘50s, covering about five decades of music and doing great selections from each of those decades.
Considering that you are Elwood in the production, what do you think of his character/personality?
I think he is a funny, funny character. What’s interesting to me is after building the character for several years with the Las Vegas show [Legends in Concert, also starring Wayne Catania] when we did go up to Chicago, I met Dan [Ackroyd]. He gave me some great insight into how Elwood had come about; and Elwood is really a fusion of four different characters.
Two of those characters are from the Toronto music scene: Hock Walsh from the Downchild Blues Band and King Biscuit Boy were two elements of the Elwood character. Then you had John Lee Hooker and his look with the straight black tie, white shirt, G-man style, with the hat and glasses, and also you had Charlie Musselwhite – the Blues harp playing kind of character, who kept his harp in a briefcase.
So Elwood was a fusion of those characters, and I think what’s interesting is the two Toronto Blues guys, I had grown up watching. To put a funny twist between these characters, I think makes Elwood a fascinating and wacky kind of character.
Do you remember or recall actually watching The Blues Brothers movie for the first time and your first impressions?
Yes, I do. I think it was in Toronto – and it was a VHS.
I’d heard people talk about it a lot. When you’re working a lot, once a month you get the chance to catch up on movies and stuff, so I had to see it. It’s a great movie with a lot of famous lines. I loved the movie right out of the gate, because it’s a combination of music, comedy and action – and those three genres, you just don’t see those in a film!
I think that was a very new ground breaking combination of things, and I think that is usually entertaining in itself, but the very dry sense of humour delivery in Jake and Elwood is beautifully done.
With a lot of these characters you’ve got one really goofy, wacky guy and one straight guy, like Abbott and Costello, or Laurel and Hardy; they always play off each other. But with the Blues Brothers, they’re both straight guys … and the rest of the world is wacky.
Very true! In terms of being wacky, what is a particular moment you can recall from performing with Wayne that struck you as being particularly funny?
I can remember one time we were in South Carolina, and a woman broke into the change room while we were changing and sprayed us with holy water.
So, that was pretty interesting. It was pretty funny; but I think she was serious!
So, you’re heading over here now to Australia to do this tour. How much are you looking forward to visiting?
Very much looking forward to it. I have to say I have been there three times and just had a wonderful time – very hospitable people, love the weather, great food, lovely wine … jeez, I think you guys have a little paradise going on down there!
Why would you encourage people to come along and see the show?
It’s definitely comedy, but it’s also a great dedication to wonderful R&B music, so if you enjoy those things I would say please come along and join in the party! We definitely encourage people to get involved in the show, and that’s what the music’s all about.
I think Australian audiences have been fabulously receptive to all of these tunes, and there are some really big R&B fans down there.
Thanks so much, Kieron.
Interview by Jo Robinson.
See The Official Blues Brothers Revue on 16th March, 8pm, at Club North Haven.