It's billed as the Blues Brothers' final tour but don't be surprised if Jake and Elwood are back on stage another last time... it's all down to supply and demand. Viv Hardwick meets one of the men behind the shades

BRAD Henshaw wishes he had a pound for every time he's been asked if this really is The Blues Brothers' farewell tour. The touring tribute to the 1980 cult film, starring John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd, is always advertised as hitting the road for "just one last time". The man who dons the trilby, sunglasses and black suit as Blues Brother Jake admits: "If I could answer that one I'd be a millionaire by now, but the fact is nobody knows when it's all going to end. This is a 20-year goodbye and as long as the audience keeps asking for more, then it's going to go on for a while,"

The father-of-two has been touring with the official tribute for the past eight years and swings back into the UK having spent five months with the show in Germany, Spain and Italy.

Now he and Mark Lawson, who plays Blues Brother Elwood, are heading for the North-East venues of Darlington, Newcastle and Billingham Forum.

"We enjoy the North-East the most because people are prepared to get up and have a good time. We find that places nearer London get a little 'showed out' with musicals and audiences are a bit more stand-offish.

"Cash may be tighter in the North-East, but the people who pay out their money to see the show are always determined to have a good time."

Henshaw does six-month spells with the musical between appearing in ITV1's The Bill and going out with other tours such as The Rocky Horror Show. But he can't avoid the attraction of a show inspired by the Jake and Elwood characters who started life in the US on the Saturday Night Live show and on tour with comic Steve Martin.

"It should have ended when John Belushi died in 1982, but his estate and Dan Ackroyd have endorsed this official tribute. There are a lot of Blues Brothers tributes touring the pubs and clubs, but we are two guys who want to be the Blue Brothers. This is not a lookalike situation," he adds.

Henshaw takes on some of the directing duties for the show as he counts himself as "an older man" adding "well, I'm over 29... a lot over 29."

There was a follow-up film in 1998, called Blues Brothers 2000, although Henshaw claims it had no influence on the content of the stage show which has played five West End seasons. Each tour has updated dialogue plus the "pillars" of soul, blues and rhythm and blues with the odd burst of madness such as the theme from Rawhide or Rolf Harris's Two Little Boys.

Singer/songwriter Henshaw began with local bands in Birmingham before working as backing vocalist with UB40 and the Fine Young Cannibals and supporting Mica Paris and Ruby Turner on tour.

As he moves towards directing and producing, he pays tribute to the many musicians who have ensured that the Blues Brothers have such an attractive backing beat and the ever-changing Bluettes, the show's essential singing trio.

"Each time someone new joins the show it brings something different out of the rest of the cast.

"I'm looking forward to Newcastle because this was the one theatre where I remember almost the entire audience was wearing hats and sunglasses. There was total silence as we took the stage and then the whole place went wild. It was quite an eerie night and one I'll never forget."

* The Blues Brothers runs at Darlington's Civic Theatre from Monday until Saturday. The production then moves to Newcastle's Theatre Royal, June 30-July 5, and roars into Billingham's Forum Theatre for the week of August 24-29