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The Blues Brothers Revival

Aiming to be a tourist-friendly Chi sitdown attraction with a future in casinos, Victor R. Pisano's "The Blues Brothers Revival" is a tawdry, loose, humorless and generally half-baked effort, with a book so weird and wafer-thin it makes no compelling case whatsoever for its own existence.

Cast:
Jake - Wayne Catania Elwood - Kieron Lafferty

Aiming to be a tourist-friendly Chi sitdown attraction with a future in casinos, Victor R. Pisano’s “The Blues Brothers Revival” is a tawdry, loose, humorless and generally half-baked effort, with a book so weird and wafer-thin it makes no compelling case whatsoever for its own existence.

As a safe blues entry point for middle-aged white guys, the Brothers Blue have a certain ongoing commercial appeal. Pisano’s decent band and lively set of backup singers trot out a few likeable standards for auds with expectations only of partying.

Production values also are reasonably strong. But without a new writer and some actual jokes added into the mix, this will be nothing more than a bottom-feeding celebrity impersonation show that even Sweet Home Chicago will have trouble swallowing.

Pisano, a sometime entertainment exec, is married to Judy Belushi, the late John Belushi’s widow. And Dan Aykroyd (who owns the other half of the act born on “Saturday Night Live”) also has lent his name and support to the project. Those connections imply a piece of much greater substance than the one delivered.

With Jake and Elwood played by Canadian impressionist-comedians Wayne Catania and Kieron Lafferty (Lafferty is pretty good; Catania is pretty bad), the show depicts the Jake character being trapped in Purgatory and needing help from his brother and sundry soul sisters to get him to heaven.

Since John Belushi is dead, the post-mortem plot could be regarded as being in questionable taste. But even if one can get past the unseemly prospect of a man writing and directing a musical about his wife’s dead first husband, the plot device just doesn’t come with enough comedy to make this incarnation of the Blues Brothers likable.

For all its flaws, the movie had a sharp, satirical script that contained lots of music set-pieces but also featured some of the wittiest one-liners ever to be tossed out of Lake Michigan. “The Blues Brothers Revival,” which feels like a piece of Chi-style long-form improv, has no such sharpness.

Despite the plethora of standard musical treats (“Amazing Grace,” “Soul Man”) churned out in fine style by the band, this is a musical without a book or a decently developed sense of humor, and a revival not worthy of the originals.

The Blues Brothers Revival

Chicago Center for the Performing Arts, 350 seats, $50 top

Production: A John Belushi Estate and Dan Aykroyd presentation of the Victor R. Pisano production of a musical revue in two acts, written and directed by Victor R. Pisano.

Creative: Musical direction, Ron Walters Jr. Sets, Robert A. Kovach; costumes, Kimberly Morris; lighting, A. Cameron Zetty; sound, Garth Helm. Opened, reviewed April 20, 2004. Running time: 2 HOURS.

Cast: Jake - Wayne Catania Elwood - Kieron LaffertyWith: Pete Peterkin, Precious Jewel, Lavenia Davis, Bethany Thomas, Claudia Walters, Rick Smith, Shamus McClain.

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