ConcertFestive 15/16LondonMusicMusicalWest End

The Blues Brothers: Xmas Special – Arts Theatre, London

Director: Joshua Mumby
Reviewer: Maryam Philpott


It’s that time of year again; that’s right, the tree has gone up in Trafalgar Square and that can only mean one thing, time for the Christmas Specials – this ia when an ordinary show puts on a Santa beard and includes a few festive tunes to transform itself into a seasonal edition. Cult 80s hit film The Blues Brothers,starring Dan Aykroyd and James Belushi, has achieved a life beyond its celluloid origins, with the iconic look of its leading men and the music they loved recognisable to those who’ve never seen the movie. Here many of those songs are performed in a tribute show with a Christmas twist – as performers David Kristopher-Brown and Joshua Mumby announce as the show opens, “it’s almost Christmas and we’re wearing sunglasses.”

Clearly everyone involved in this show loves the Blues Brothers a lot and references to the film from key locations to costumes are neatly placed throughout. There’s no story here exactly, just a group of people who enjoy performing the music, which on the whole is a fairly hit and miss affair. It takes a long time for the audience to warm up and join in with the singing and clapping as they are frequently urged. The show mixes songs performed by Ayckroyd, Belushi and the Blues Brothers Band with other soul and blues performers from Aretha Franklin and Otis Reading to Brenda Lee, as well as those few festive tunes to nod to the ‘Xmas Special’ bit of the title.

David Kristopher-Brown does most of the singing in the rôle of ‘Joilet’ Jake Blues but his voice isn’t quite gravelly and pained enough to really sell some of the more sentimental numbers like Guilty, but by the time Jailhouse Rock comes around he’s begun to hit his stride. In a show with no interval, Kristopher-Brown throws himself around the stage with abandon during the energetic, and often comic, dance routines which does leave him rather out of breath for the next song so maybe some shuffling of the running order might give him some time off between numbers.

Joshua Mumby takes on the rôle of fellow brother Elwood Blues (as well as directing the show) providing harmonica accompaniment, enthusiastic dancing and leads a couple of songs – definitely the joker of the two. Perhaps unusually both leads are seriously outperformed by their backing singers, particularly T’Shan Williams who gives fierce renditions of Think and R-E-S-P-E-C-T. She’s matched by Simon Ray-Harvey playing Ray, Louis and Curtis whose recent appearance in Memphis has clearly got him in the right frame of mind for this show as his versions of Shake a Tail Feather and Minnie the Moocher are among the highlights.

The Blues Brothers: Xmas Special may not quite bring the room alive but it did convince three dedicated revellers to dance in the aisle for most of the second half, and admittedly everyone was on their feet at the end – a bribe to ensure an encore. The performers clearly love being The Blues Brothers and band, and even those who’ve never seen the film will certainly recognise and enjoy the music.

Runs until10 January 2015 | Image: Piers Foley Photography

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