Q&A with Kieron Lafferty, aka Elwood Blues - East Valley Tribune: Music

Q&A with Kieron Lafferty, aka Elwood Blues

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Posted: Thursday, October 20, 2011 3:08 pm | Updated: 12:36 am, Mon Oct 31, 2011.

They’re getting the band back together. Sort of.

“The Official Blues Brothers Revue,” coming Saturday to Chandler, reprises the music and comedy of the iconic duo in sunglasses, dark suits and fedoras.

Played by Dan Akyroyd and the late John Belushi, the Blues Brothers rose to fame first as a band in the late 1970s on “Saturday Night Live.” A popular movie followed in 1980, and they produced albums.

Here, Kieron Lafferty, who plays Elwood Blues in the “Revue,” talks about the show. He and his co-star, Wayne Catania, who plays Jake, were cast in 2004 in “The Official Blues Brothers Revival,” a Chicago show produced by Aykroyd and Judy Belushi Pisano — John’s widow. From that production came the seeds of Saturday’s touring show.

Q: So, I’ve settled into my seat Saturday night at Chandler Center for the Arts. What am I about to see?

A: You’re going to see Jake and Elwood and a rocking seven piece band -- The Intercontinental Rhythm and Blues Revue Band -- perform classic blues, R&B, soul and doo-wop music from the original movie and beyond. In the mix there is comedy, classic Blues Brothers shtick and some thoroughly entertaining multimedia interaction.

Q: We have a lot of Chicago transplants here in the Valley. Think they’ll make for a tough crowd?

A: Chicago audiences are fantastic! We’ve spent a lot of time in Chi Town, and we’ve always had a blast; they’ve got great energy.

Q: When did the Blues Brothers first enter your world? What were your impressions of them back then?

A: I saw the movie when it came out. I loved it, and being a musician, (I) totally related to it. That movie started a new genre: action/comedy/musical -- a difficult balance to achieve. The soundtrack was full of R&B classics, many from Stax/Volt, and their version of “Soul Man” went to No. 1 (on the charts) at a time when the prefabricated, monotonous drone of disco music ruled the charts. The Blues Brothers singlehandedly put R&B music back on the charts and reinvigorated the careers of Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Ray Charles and John Lee Hooker.

Q: How has your perception of who and what the Blues Brothers were changed or grown since you’ve had to portray the characters in front of fans?

A: We’ve worked very closely with Judy (Belushi Pisano, John Belushi’s widow) and had some really important insight from Dan (Aykroyd) as to where these characters came from, who they are and how they think. We had the opportunity to go to Blues Brothers “boot camp,” in a sense, and we took it from there.

Q: What’s the hardest thing about playing such an iconic character made famous by a well-known and well-liked actor?

A: This is an acting job. This is musical theatre. If I was playing a role in “Jersey Boys” or “Mama Mia,” I would do it with the same conviction. We are definitely not trying to portray Dan and John in any way; we’re playing the Jake and Elwood characters. The Elwood character is particularly interesting to me because he’s based, in part, on a couple of musicians from the Toronto blues scene, which I know well.

Q:  Who’s interested in the Blues Brothers these days?

A: It’s the kind of movie that gets passed from one generation to another; we have people in the audience from age 8 to 80, many of them dressed in Blues Brothers outfits. Everyone has a favorite scene from the movie, and everyone loves the music. The soundtrack to the movie is an encyclopedia of American music. The Blues Brothers definitely have timeless quality to them; Elwood’s geopolitical rant over green onions is still relevant today, 30 years later. There’s a theater in Melbourne, Australia, that has been playing the Blues Brothers movie every Friday for 25 years.

Q: What do you think the Blues Brothers’ legacy is?

A: The characters have a wide cross-cultural appeal. Part of that is their “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” attitude. With a single-minded sense of purpose, they always take the shortest route from A to B, even if that’s through a building. Dan described them as “sociopaths with a heart of gold.”

But moreover, the Blues Brothers made it cool for everyone to play blues and R&B music. Aside from Elvis, they are the most imitated characters around. You’ll find people doing Blues Brothers impersonations in Italy, Japan, Dubai, Mexico. These characters strike a chord in people globally -- both men and women. There’s a “Blues Broads” act somewhere online, and there’s also a four-piece Blues Brothers midget act out there.

Q: What’s your (contribution to that legacy)?

A: I am greatly honored to be playing the role of Elwood in The Official Blues Brothers Revue, and my aim is to do this character well. Judy and Dan want these characters to come alive and to have a show that carries on the Blues Brothers tradition of respecting the music.

Q: What can fans of the Blues Brothers look forward to from you guys that will bring them more of the legendary duo?

A: We are currently on tour until April 2012, and we’ll take a short break and fulfill some other obligations in Australia, and we’ll be back on the road in the fall. We’ve been working with Judy and Anne Beatts, of SNL, on a TV show about the continuing adventures of Jake and Elwood.

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