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Blues Brothers ‘looking forward’ to local show

By TOM JOZWIK - Special to The Post

September 7, 2017

 
     

Wayne Catania as Jake Blues and Kieron Lafferty as Elwood Blues will perform Sept. 15 at the South Milwaukee PAC.

Submitted Photo

SOUTH MILWAUKEE - The band-fronting Blues Brothers are “looking forward” to making a return trip to Milwaukee. At least Elwood Blues, aka Kieron Lafferty, is.

Reached by telephone at his Toronto home, Lafferty - who’ll revisit Milwaukee County with longtime sidekick Wayne Catania as Jake Blues for a Sept. 15 performance - sounded like the head of the local tourism bureau as he extolled Milwaukee’s virtues.

“Home of Harley-Davidson,” Lafferty mused. “Fabulous beer and good German food. Really great people.”

One of the city’s southern neighbors, South Milwaukee, is where The Official Blues Brothers Revue - whose band director, Paul Shaffer, had a similar role on David Letterman’s TV show - will perform this time. The Blues Brothers previously played in downtown Milwaukee and have made appearances “all over the place,” in Lafferty’s words, including Australia and New Zealand (and, in the Badger State, Green Bay, Oshkosh, Wausau and Wisconsin Dells). They put on about 100 shows annually.

“Although we do festivals as well, generally we’re playing in theaters,” Lafferty said. That’ll be the case Sept. 15, when the Revue’s venue will be the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center, 901  15th Ave. The event, slated to start at 7:30 p.m., kicks off the PAC’s 2017-’18 season. Ticket prices for the Revue range from $10-$45. The PAC’s box office can be reached at 414-766-5049 or www.southmilwaukeepac.org.

Lafferty described the Revue as “a re-creation of Jake (John Belushi) and Elwood’s (Dan Aykroyd) skits that they did, including (on) TV, ‘Saturday Night Live.’” Sanctioned by Aykroyd and Belushi’s widow, Judy Belushi (who reportedly works closely with Lafferty and Catania in an executive producer role), the Revue offers “music and comedy, as well as multimedia and live theatrics,” according to Lafferty. Audiences have included many baby boomers, but also young adults and even younger individuals. Lafferty recalled a 4-year-old, decked out as a Blues Brother, sitting up front at a show in Naperville, Ill. Introducing kids to rhythm and blues “as young as possible” strikes Lafferty as a capital idea.

Then again, as Judy Belushi said over the phone from her home on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, the Revue’s music is “not strictly blues or R&B.” There are country, reggae and gospel numbers also, added Lafferty.

The Revue, he said, “covers a span from the ‘30s (Cab Calloway’s “Minnie the Moocher”) to the ‘80s, like an encyclopedia of American rhythm and blues” - and then some. The show is divided into two sets, each lasting about 50 minutes.

Elwood Blues has been Lafferty’s alter ego for most of the last 20 years, but the original Elwood, first on TV’s “SNL” and later on the big screen, was of course Aykroyd. Lafferty called Aykroyd “a great guy, a generous guy,” one who “will answer any question.” He added so as to include the late Belushi, “These guys were blues fans, two of the biggest,” which apparently goes a long way toward explaining their Elwood and Jake Blues characters.

Judy Belushi “was very much a part of the writing of those characters,” Lafferty noted.  “Judy is very hands-on with everything. ... She’s the funniest person that I’ve ever met. She definitely keeps us laughing.”

Belushi said via phone that attending the Revue is “a fun thing to do as a group.” She spoke of “the healing” that “music and laughter” can provide, adding that “it’s important (for people) to get their dose of music and laughter every day.” She also mentioned the show’s suitability for children.

Seeking actors to portray her husband and Aykroyd in a musical revival (as opposed to revue), Belushi came across a videotape wherein Lafferty and Catania impersonated the Blues Brothers. She recalled thinking the Canadians “were very good” and “seemed to have chemistry, seemed to relate to each other.”

And just why is it that Aykroyd’s Elwood Blues, of all possible personas, has become Lafferty’s character of choice? “I just,” he joshed over the phone, “didn’t have the right look for Johnny Cash.”