You hear it before you see it. The large megaphone fitted to the Blues Brothers signature cop car crackles to life, announcing their impending arrival. The call rings out for others to follow them to the show, and finally, the car makes that last turn down a New York street where the boys park and jump out to give a small concert, right there on the corner.
Mabel, the waitress, and Jazz, the saxophone player, join Jake and Elwood to excite the crowd with a small line-up of songs. Within seconds, toes are tapping, hands are clapping and smiles are spreading while some great hits like Jailhouse Rock, Respect and Shake A Tailfeather are performed with high energy.
I recently experienced this attraction with all three of my children and found that, despite our span in ages and personalities, our response to the show was very similar. This is our family’s take on one of Universal’s most overlooked attractions – The Blues Brothers Show.
Elle is 10 years old and a bit of a daredevil. Very little frightens her. Elle is also my kid who is most likely to jump in and join the party. One of her philosophies is that if there is fun, she wants to be in the center of it. For this reason, you would think that Elle would have been the first one to raise her hands and sing-a-long. Surprisingly, this was not the case.
There was an obvious disconnect for Elle. Instead of participating, she watched the show with mild amusement but never fully engaged. This is most likely due to the fact that she was not familiar with the film, the characters, or the music – a problem likely to apply to many of the younger viewers. This was very apparent when she attempted to describe the show:
“There were these guys and a girl. They introduce themselves, and then they sang songs and made the audience clap. It wasn’t that much.”
When asked if she liked the show, she responded affirmatively but also added that she felt that it was very basic. She noted, however, that the people in the audience around her seemed to really enjoy the performance. The smiles and dancing of other audience members caught her attention, so she felt that it was something that may still be worth recommending. For Elle, however, it wasn’t something that she would choose to do again unless there were no more appealing alternatives.
Miller is 13 years old and takes most things in stride. He doesn’t seek out thrills, but he doesn’t run from them either. His strength is being able to “bend in the wind” in most situations. That was pretty clear as the show began because even though Miller hadn’t seen the film to give the show context, he was still engaged.
Citing the saxophone player as a personal highlight, Miller stated that he found the show really enjoyable. He even mentioned that he might want to watch again if they rotated song sets for each show time (which they do). His only caveat was that the show was a bit loud, possibly louder than some might enjoy.
Margeaux is 15 years old and is timid about attractions that tend to frighten. In general, she despises rides that drop you or place you in the middle of a harrowing situation. Since The Blues Brothers R&B Revue was neither, I was interested to see what Margeaux’s reaction would be.
Margeaux enjoyed the show, but she wasn’t entirely taken in by it. Like her brother, she was impressed by the saxophonist, but found the audience enthusiasm almost as entertaining as the performers, describing them as “hyped up” with their clapping hands and conga line participation. She felt that it was a good show overall, but she said that she would probably skip it if rides were an alternative.
I am the mom of this brood and a thrill seeker at heart. Scary things, fast things, and “bragging rights” have always appealed to me. In general, rides grab me and shows don’t, but this show was one I had been curious about for some time.
Maybe it was because of the unusual entrance via cop car. Maybe it was the over-the-top characters with cartoon-like personalities. I’m not quite sure what it was, but I do know that there was an energy that jumped out of the police vehicle and into the crowd.
I have never seen The Blues Brothers film, nor have I ever seen any of the Saturday Night Live skits from which it originated. Consequently, there was a sense of knowing that I was missing an important element–an element to which the other audience members were responding. Nevertheless, once the first song began, I found myself bouncing in rhythm and smiling at the sheer silliness of two dramatically dressed men, a waitress in uniform, and a street-playing saxophonist having this spontaneous jam session.
It became harder to find it all a joke, though, when Mabel the Waitress started up the second song in the set. She belted “Respect” in a way that would make Aretha Franklin stand up and take note. Once Jazz came in strong with the song’s saxophone solo, any questions of legitimate talent here were pushed aside.
I looked around quickly. People weren’t just watching; they were actively participating. There were even a couple of men dancing with abandon either by themselves or with their children. Even so, when Jake and Elwood came down from the stage to create a conga line during the third song, the audience’s response heightened. More than a quarter of the crowd joined the dance line without hesitation. Then just as quickly as it had begun, it was over. The Blues Brothers jumped right back into their car. Mable and Jazz scattered, and the crowd dispersed.
It took me awhile to sort out exactly how I felt about this show. One the one hand, I was glad that it had such brevity. I don’t usually have much patience for shows because I am anxious to get on a ride. This performance was brief enough that I never felt as though I was sacrificing too much time by watching. On the other hand, the performance was done so well that I didn’t feel like I had gotten quite enough. In truth, I could have listened to a couple more numbers before reaching the point where my mind began to acknowledge that other things were happening in the park.
Eventually, I determined that this juxtaposition might be what made it such a neat experience. It isn’t a show that I would specifically schedule into my day at the park. However, if I found myself waiting for a dining reservation without enough time to squeeze in another ride, this would be an ideal way to pass some of that time. Additionally, if I happened to be in the area when that cop car turned the corner, spending a few extra minutes here would be worthwhile. In my opinion, The Blues Brother Show definitely has its place in the line-up of Universal’s attractions, and it fills that role well.