I’M A SOULMAN! Reviews

Soulman! Cure for Blues

London Free Press Fri, July 24, 2009
London brothers Geoff and Chris Dahl make the leap from a stellar performance at Bluesfest right into new project I’m a Soulman!

When it comes to a big-time homecoming, Geoff Dahl knows how to make an impression.

Along with his brother, Chris Dahl, he hit the stage earlier this week as Bluesfest London 2009 was winding up. The Dahls were in character as Da Blooze Bros, with Geoff as Elwood and Chris as Jake.

Their high-stepping contribution to the Lincolns’ set on Sunday helped build buzz and sell tickets for the brothers’ true homecoming as the stars of I’m a Soulman! The musical comedy opens at the London City Music Theatre tonight.

“We’ve been doing the European legs of this for about five or six years,” Geoff Dahl says of Soulman! It combines plenty of soul, blues and R&B hits with comedy and stage action you’d expect from masters of the Blues Brothers roles created by Dan Aykroyd (Elwood) and the late John Belushi (Jake).

“It was a total improv,” Dahl says of the Bluesfest gig. “We did an impromptu thing with the Lincolns at Bluesfest.”

The Toronto-area Lincolns were only playing Bluesfest London’s closing set because ex-Stone Mick Taylor cancelled due to illness. The Dahls as Da Blooze Brothers were on the grounds to help promote Soulman!

The Lincolns’ leader and bassist Prakash John was happy knowing he could bring the Dahls up on stage. He’s the bassist in the Soulman! band. His son, Jordan John is the Lincolns’ drummer. Jordan John joins his father at the London City Music Theatre in backing the Dahls and other cast members.

The cast includes London singer Denise Pelley, who has the Aretha Franklin songs to celebrate. Local heroes include guitarist Doug Varty and keyboard player Duncan Grant, who has often played in Europe.

Out-of-town performers include a dance troupe. Its members are from Spain, France and Germany. Their credentials run from ballet to Riverdance to Shakir.

The Dahls bring their extensive resume to I’m a Soulman! Long before they helped London City Music Theatre owner Dale Henderson tweak his 600-seat facility with a few new technical twists to make their homecoming perfect, they were rocking London and the world.

Lucas secondary school grad and harmonica ace Geoff Dahl studied music at UWO before leaving to form a band called Signals.

He performed with Juno-winning singer Cassandra Vasik and worked with such bands as Black Avalon.

Chris, a vocalist, brought his multi-octave range to such acts as the Uptown Blues Band and Lorraine Fields.

The Dahls began to find their way into the tribute and revue field when the demand original acts started to dry up in the 1990s. The show they have built around Da Blooze Bros has legs — and now it’s brought them home to London.

Being the Bros doesn’t mean they don’t have original material from years ago that could find an audience. Geoff Dahl had a late-1980s’ project with Varty, a childhood friend he still wants to release.

“Doug was my neighbour growing up,” Dahl says. “He had a band, Tower of London, when he was 14 or 15 years old. I was five years younger than him and I used to go sit outside his driveway and listen to them play. I’ve been following him since back then.”

Dahl figures there are at least two albums of material with his words and Varty’s music that nobody has heard.

“It’s one of those projects we’re always going to do at some point. It’s kind of like Leonard Cohen stuff,” Dahl says.

Leonard Cohen? Who knew “Blooze Bro” Elwood knew Leonard Cohen?

“Leonard Cohen’s my favourite guy in the world,” Dahl says. “He’s my hero. I was a lyric writer for many, many years. I went to a workshop with him in 1992. He changed my whole way of writing songs. He’s just so funny and heavy in his lyrics at the same time. His recordings now are amazing.”

A Londoner coming home who knows Elwood Blues and Leonard Cohen?
Now, that’s a soul man.

I’m a Soulman Homecoming
The Londoner July 22, 2009

By Richard Young

When real life brothers Geoff and Chris Dahl hit the stage in character as the fictitious Blues Brothers in I’m a Soulman, the hit musical comedy playing at the London City Music Theatre from July 24 to August 9, it will mark an artistic homecoming for the two London musicians.

The Dahl brothers played in area blues and R&B bands for years before donning the iconic black suits, hats and sun glasses of Jake and Elwood Blues to form their tribute act, Da BLOOZE Bros in the mid-1990s.

After touring the world to rave reviews, producer Bernhard Kurz of the Berlin-based Stars In Concert series invited them to headline his new show, I’m a Soulman.

The two-hour production which captures the spirit of the two Blues Brothers movies opened in Germany in 2004 and has played to international acclaim and standing ovations throughout Europe and the U.S. In bringing I’m a Soulman to London for its Canadian premiere – like the movie characters created by the late John Belushi and Canadian comic Dan Aykroyd – the Dahl brothers are on a mission of sorts.

“We’re a couple of EOA (East-of-Adelaide) kids returning to our old stomping grounds to put on a blues and R&B show for our family, friends and fellow Londoners,” says Geoff Dahl, who plays Elwood Blues.

“We thought it was about time to share this great show with the good folks in our hometown – and the new London City Music Theatre is the perfect venue for the production.”

Featuring classic blues, R&B and Motown tunes by Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, The Drifters, James Brown, Elvis, and of course, the Blues Brothers, I’m a Soulman blends music, dance, action, humour and a screen show in a fast-paced family-friendly show.

A stellar cast includes American Ray Charles tribute singer Frank Rondell and European dancers Carla Oya, Laura Fernandez and Gwenny Ludwig who bring comedy, athleticism and groove to the show.

Canadian R&B legends Prakash and Jordan John on bass and drums respectively anchor a killer band that includes Londoners Duncan Grant on keyboards, guitarist Doug Varty and the Dr. Bombay Horns featuring Scott Edwards, Ron Walker and Mike Polci. Rounding out the strong local contingent is well-known London vocalist, Denise Pelley.

Pelley seized the opportunity to participate in the show when the Dahl brothers contacted her a few months ago about casting her as Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul. She is thrilled to be playing Franklin, whom she considers one of her musical heroes.

“I didn’t hesitate when they asked me,” says Pelley. “Opening for Aretha and getting to talk to her at the John Labatt Centre in 2003 was one of the highlights of my musical career. In I’m a Soulman, I sing her famous tunes, including a duet with the Ray Charles tribute artist. Portraying someone else on stage is always a challenge and I like to challenge myself.”

Pelley is excited about the show’s spontaneity and improvisation and how the cast encourages audience involvement – something Geoff Dahl says is built into the show.

“While we operate from a set structure, every night’s performance is different from the last,” says Dahl.

“Nobody knows how long the songs will be or how much improvised dialogue will occur or what kind of audience involvement we will get, so to a large degree we call the show on the fly each night. Fortunately, the high calibre of our cast, dancers and musicians enables us to do this.”

Special incentives, including half-price admission for kids under 13, group rates and prizes for audience members who show up in costumes are being offered.

“Young kids aren’t familiar with the Blues Brothers. They think we’re the guys from the Men in Black movies, but it doesn’t matter, parents and kids alike love our show,” says Dahl.

The Dahl brothers have invested a lot of their own time, energy and money promoting the show and they are convinced Londoners will reward their efforts.

They say the London Music Theatre is very similar to the venues they play in Europe and the U.S. and they hope that it will become a destination of choice for other high calibre international shows like I’m a Soulman. Who knows – maybe their homecoming will become an annual event.

I’m a Soulman Review
By: Richard Young

Those lucky enough to be in attendance for the opening night of the hit musical comedy, I’m a Soulman, at the London City Music Theatre last night witnessed a show unlike anything that has graced this city’s stages in quite some time.

From the time Geoff and Chris Dahl (Elwood and Jake Blues) and company literally hit the stage running until they left it two hours later to an enthusiastic standing ovation and cheers, the fast-paced production had audience members clapping their hands, singing out responses and moving and grooving. When Jake Blues (Chris Dahl) asked “Is everybody having a good time?” audience members repeatedly responded with a resounding “Yes” – and they really meant it.

The production, which runs through until August 9, is a goldmine for anyone familiar with blues, R&B and Motown standards like “Flip, Flop and Fly,” “Under the Boardwalk,” “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” “Respect,” “I’ve Got My Mojo Working,” and of course, the show’s signature tune, the old Sam and Dave classic, “I’m a Soulman.” London’s Denise Pelley lights up the stage as Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, while Frank Rondell delivers a sampling of Ray Charles’ standards including “Mess Around” and “Georgia On My Mind.” Pelley and Rondell join forces for a spirited version of “Hit the Road Jack.” London musicians Doug Varty and Duncan Grant on guitar and keyboards respectively round out a killer band anchored by R&B legend Prakash John on bass and his son Jordan on drums. A three piece horn section that includes Scott Edwards, Mike Polci and Ron Walker gives the band a full brassy sound sorely missing on the Bluesfest London stage last week. All the cast members and musicians appeared to be enjoying themselves immensely onstage and their enthusiasm was contagious for the audience.

The music alone is worth the admission charge, but when you throw in the improvised humour of the Dahl brothers and audience interaction and add the energetic choreography and costumes of Da Wowzers, the three dancers who give a whole new meaning to the song, “Shake a Tail Feather,” you’ve got an entertainment package that is sure to please all age groups. Word of mouth is sure to guarantee the Dahl brothers a return on the substantial investment they’ve made in bringing I’m a Soulman to London for its Canadian premiere.

Indeed, this is the kind of show that many people will want to come to see a second and maybe even a third time during its three week run.