They’re on a mission from God, and it’s taking the Blues Brothers straight through Tyler next week.
Elwood and Jake Blues were brought to iconic life by Dan Aykroyd and the late John Belushi in John Landis’ 1980 comedy “The Blues Brothers,” but the characters live on thanks to shows like “The Official Blues Brothers Revue,” a full-blown concert event. Endorsed and co-created by Aykroyd and Belushi’s widow, Judith Belushi-Pisano, the show is a chance to see the boys in their element, complete with a full band and roster of blues tunes.
Wayne Catania, who bears a fairly striking resemblance to Belushi (and thusly plays the part of Jake Blues), was kind enough to spend a few minutes chatting on the phone with the Tyler Morning Telegraph to speak about his experiences with the show.
Catania said it was a little nerve-wracking at first, taking on such an iconic role, but meeting and working with Aykroyd and Belushi-Pisano really helped he and Kieron Lafferty (who plays Elwood) find their footing. Given how established the characters are, one might assume it difficult to find a way to not just impersonate or replicate the original actors, but Catania said there’s been a very natural transition and evolution to Jake and Elwood.
“The characters are always evolving, as we all do,” Catania said. “Jake and Elwood are always evolving and I think if you have the meat and potatoes of who they are and where they came from and how they talk and eat, then the next steps are kind of logical for those characters. It continues. There’s no real formula to what we do. “
It also helps, it would seem, to treat the Blues Brothers as though they’re real.
“The characters are actually very lovable characters. There’s a little bit of Jake and Elwood in all of us, and I think that comes out,” Catania said.
And make no mistake, this isn’t just a comedy show with a few musical numbers. Catania assured fans that this is a full-blown concert, though that doesn’t mean there won’t be laughs.
“Expect to hear music played properly,” he said. “As far as comedy goes, the characters in the show, Jake and Elwood are just funny dudes and they have a certain timing and a certain way of presenting things that always brings chuckles to people. It’s not a comedy show, it’s fully about the music, but expect to have a good time and hear good music. There are a lot of times where venues tell people not to get up and dance, but people still do. And it wouldn’t be like Jake and Elwood to be breaking rules.”
Catania wasn’t kidding about the music being played properly, either. Then again, that’s what happens when your musical director is Paul Schaeffer. Yes, that Paul Schaeffer.
“We hand-picked (the band). Paul Schaeffer is our musical director. He does spend time with us. Of course, Paul isn’t on the road with us. He’s got the Letterman show. But he was the original Blues Brothers band (leader),” he said. “I believe it was John (Belushi) who asked Paul to put the band together. He was the first Blues Brothers musician at the very beginning of things. His knowledge in the music and how it is played is incredible.”
Of course, Belushi gave the character some trademark acrobatics by performing flips and cartwheels during various musical numbers and Catania had a great laugh when asked if he could “do the flips.”
“It varies on stages. I do the cartwheels and that. But some stages are really slippery. You go out there and it can get dangerous, not just for myself but everyone around me,” Catania said. “Sometimes we’ll do a soundcheck and it feels good. Then we’ll leave and go have dinner and whatnot before the show, and without me knowing the crew at the venue ends up washing the stage down. I don’t know this, go to do (the flips) and it’s like ice. I do the cartwheels and stuff. I can. But then there are nights when I just gotta put my health ahead of it and not do them. I like what I do and to hurt myself in any way would not be doing Jake any good either.”
The Official Blues Brothers Revue will hit the stage at the University of Texas at Tyler’s Cowan Center stage at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday. For more information or for tickets, call 903-566-7424 or visit www.cowancenter.org .