The Blues Brothers and National Lampoon’s Animal House
Friday, Nov. 30, 8 p.m.
Palace Theatre, 2834 James St.
In 1975 a young television producer named Lorne Michaels asked comedian John Belushi to take part in a late-night sketch comedy program he was developing for NBC. The show was called Saturday Night Live and the rest is pretty much history.
Eastwood’s Palace Theatre is screening 35mm versions of two Belushi masterpieces—National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978) and The Blues Brothers (1980)—at its Brew and View event this Friday. Animal House, directed by John Landis, was Belushi’s breakout movie. Before the film’s release his talents were widely praised, but the acclaim came in the context of SNL, a heavily collaborative show. The comedian was forever in the company of other rising talents like Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd and Gilda Radner.
Animal House, produced by National Lampoon, a popular college humor magazine, details the activities of Delta Tau Chi, a rebellious fraternity on the campus of the fictional Faber College. Bluto Blutarsky, Belushi’s character, is a frat guy archetype—non-caring, slightly unhinged and fairly disgusting. Animal House thrust Landis into the directorial spotlight and established a new sub-genre: the gross-out comedy.
The Blues Brothers grew out of an especially popular SNL sketch featuring Belushi and Aykroyd. The two played Jake and Elwood Blues, a pair of Chicago-bred, black-suited blues singers with a fondness for illegality. But remember, they were on a mission from God.
An action-packed celebration of blues music and general malfeasance, The Blues Brothers follows Jake and Elwood as they attempt to bankroll the orphanage in which they were raised. The duo embark on a concert tour and in the process piss off everyone imaginable—neo-Nazis, ex-wives, the police. Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and John Lee Hooker make appearances in this film, also directed by Landis.
After The Blues Brothers Belushi made only two more features, the romantic comedy Continental Divide and the bizarre comedy Neighbors with co-star Aykroyd, then died from a drug overdose in March 1982. He was only 33.
Tickets cost $10 and you must be 21 or older.
Nov. 29 and 30; Dec. 6, 13 and 15, 8 p.m.
Redhouse Arts Center, 201 S. West St.
In 2002 Hairspray made its Broadway debut at the 1,445-seat Neil Simon Theatre. Thursday, Nov. 29, the Redhouse will premiere its own production of the Tony Award-winning musical. There aren’t as many seats to go around though—89 to be exact.
Hairspray, a musical set in the 1960s with a flashy exterior and somber undertones concerning racial inequality, is a giant production. Period dress, ambitious set design, a huge cast, big dance numbers—it’s a logistical nightmare.
But the Redhouse is no stranger to adapting larger works. Most recently, it produced both The Wiz and Batboy: The Musical, two fairly ambitious works. “Every time we do a show, we reinvent the whole stage,” said Redhouse executive director Stephen Svoboda.
In lieu of the usual Hairspray stage setup—neon lighting, 1960s dance studio interiors, giant hairspray cans—there stands a backdrop covered in vintage beauty billboards. The wall, paneled and scene-adaptable, provides all of the appropriate settings. An orchestra will provide music from a second-floor gallery above the performance space.
Timothy Brown and Lisa Loen, the Redhouse’s sound and costume designers, are both alumni of the Yale University School of Drama. For Hairspray, the arts center used this connection to acquire period costumes from Yale’s extensive collection of dramatic gear.
The cast is composed of local artists, some nationally known names—comedian Steve Hayes is the primary draw—and local children from Hillside Family Agencies, a Central New York non-profit that provides educational assistance to struggling students. This way, the kids get the opportunity to learn from professional actors and participate in a professional production.
Svoboda, who first reached out to Hillside while planning last season’s adaptation of The Wiz, said that the collaboration has worked out beautifully. “We wanted to do a show that brought together our community members and focuses on subject of integration,” he noted. “Thematically, it really fit what we do.”
Tickets cost $25, $15 for Rehouse members and $10 for students.