I’m a Soulman Based on The Blues Brothers (Dan Ackroyd and John Belushi) Performed by Geoff Dahl and Chris Dahl, with Frank Rondell and Denise Pelley London City Music Theatre, London July 24 to August 9, 2009
Live! On Stage! Review by Mary Alderson
The London City Music Theatre is filling a specialty niche as the place to go for tribute artists. But the current offering, I’m a Soulman, is more than just a tribute show – it’s an entire musical production. The show features Goeff and Chris Dahl, real life brothers from London, Ontario performing as the Da Blooze Brothers. What started as a tribute to the Blues Brothers has grown into a show featuring two other performers, three dancers and a seven-piece band. The Dahls impersonate John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd doing their famous Jake and Elwood Blues act. This act spawned the 1980 hit movie, and then 20 years later, after Belushi’s death, a sequel was made with John Goodman in the role of Jake. Da Blooze Brothers and I’m a Soulman are sanctioned by Dan Ackroyd and the Belushi estate. Geoff Dahl is excellent as Elwood, sounding very much like Dan Ackroyd, speaking in clipped words. He also plays a mean harmonica, even keeping the music going while he runs up the steps among the theatre seats. Chris Dahl is a very convincing Jake Blues, with a better singing voice than Belushi. They harmonize well, presenting all the Blues Brothers favourites: Soul Man, Gimme Some Lovin’, and Let the Good Times Roll. Geoff/Elwood even manoeuvres his mouth through the gibberish of Rubber Biscuit. Frank Rondell plays the role of Ray Charles performing Shake a Tail Feather and What’d I Say. Later he returns with Hit the Road Jack and a beautiful rendition of Georgia. London singer Denise Pelley plays a perfect Aretha Franklin belting out The Queen of Soul’s numbers: Think, Chain of Fools, Respect, and Natural Woman. The Dahl brothers also perform Elvis’ Jailhouse Rock, Wilson Picket’s 634-5789 and Flip Flop and Fly of Downchild Blues Band fame. As Jake croons the Drifter’s Boardwalk, Elwood plays along, running a drumstick up and down the chain that usually handcuffs him to a briefcase. Joining the singers on stage are the European Dancers: Carla Oya, Laura Fernandez and Gwenny Ludwig. The three young women have a myriad of costumes – from neon-fringed outfits to police officers, all in keeping with the original Blues Brother story. They are an impressive ensemble with great choreography. An extraordinary band has been assembled for I’m a Soulman. Guitar player Doug Varty has an extensive list of credits, going back to the 70s band Seadog. Bass player Prakash John has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for his work with Parliament/Funkadelic, and has also performed with the likes of Alice Cooper, James Brown, and Paul Shaffer, not to mention the original Blues Brothers. He appears in the 2000 Blues Brother sequel movie. His son, Jordan John, is drummer for the I’m a Soulman band, and Duncan Grant plays keyboards. The amazing horn section, known as Dr. Bombay Horns includes Scott Edwards, Ron Walker and Mike Polci. The Dahl brothers have performed I’m a Soulman all over North America and Europe. They have produced a 2 CD set of the show, which was recorded live in Germany. With their attention to detail when bringing back The Blues Brothers, their popularity will continue. I’m a Soulman continues until August 9 at London City Music Theatre at the Western Fairgrounds, London. Tickets are available at the box office at (519) 432-0888, or check www.londoncitymusictheatre.com
Mary Alderson offers her view of area theatre in this column on a regular basis. As well as being a fan of live theatre, she is a former journalist who is currently employed with the Ontario Association of Community Futures Development Corporations.