With a Little Help….It’s John Belushi – Show Review by Hanna Singer

“I owe it all to little chocolate donuts.” – John Adam Belushi

Born: January 24, 1949, Chicago, Illinois

Died: March 5, 1982, Chateau Marmont, Los Angeles, CA, Age 33


We all know John Belushi from his appearances on Saturday Night Live in the 70s (now showing on Netflix) as well as a few very funny movies like “Animal House” and “Neighbors” and others. He was a live wire. That’s what made him so funny.  You didn’t know what he would say or do…and those eyebrows! His face conveyed it all. He was real, and he took no BS, onstage and off.

I had the opportunity to see “With A Little Help…It’s John Belushi” on opening night, December 5th at the historic Theatre 80. The theatre is located in the heart of what was the famous St. Marks Place which, years ago, was a hangout for punks (as in punk music), with lots of high spikey hair seen. Today it is filled with Japanese restaurants and a few Japanese shops mostly. Theatre 80, beginning during Prohibition, was a jazz club where jazz greats performed. Then it became a movie theatre showing film revivals, before it began presenting plays.

This was the play’s East coast premiere. It follows John Belushi from his college days starting 1967, through his performing with “The Second City” in Chicago and then “Second City” in Toronto, where he met Gilda Radner (played by Stephani LeHane) and Dan Aykroyd (played by Keith Saltojane), amongst others. They all went to New York where Belushi was part of the National Lampoon Magazine and its Radio Hour. Then he and the others joined “Saturday Night Live” where they all became stars.  He was there for 4 years.

The play, deftly directed by Levi Lee Simon, starts with Belushi’s death. A somber beginning. We see him as a druggy, overweight, hallucinating and alone. The play proceeds to show us how he came to that startling end. Well, the end may have been shocking to all those who did not know him, but those who did know and love him saw the writing on the wall and valiantly tried to save him from himself.

We see his wife Judy, played by Jennifer Lieberman, who he met in college. They had a great love, and she took care of him as much as he allowed. His good friend Dan Aykroyd is played by Saltojanes, who was a standout in the show. Seeing his movements and hearing him speak, he so resembled Aykroyd, as did Jack Zullo who played Belushi.  Together, they nailed the portrayal of The Blues Brothers, inspiring the audience to sing and move along with them.

We see Belushi on stage telling jokes and speaking to the audience. He was often crude when not on television. Some jokes, as with all the great comedians, seemed dated by today’s standards and some politically incorrect (as warned in the Playbill), but they did capture those times and sensibilities.

He was arrogant and knew how funny he was. He was also like a little child, breaking rules and when caught, felt considerable remorse.

The fans of Belushi will be interested to learn more about him through this play, which Zullo, the writer, says is a passion project for him. And those too young to remember him will be introduced to this genius who lived so tragically and died so young, as many other talents have in the past. Occasional video (by Del Close) enhanced the feeling of watching a documentary from those times too. Oh and let’s not forget the cool stage musicians, Crazy Tomes Band, who were a big part of making this a successfully entertaining evening.

Visit www.withalittlehelpshow.com

A percentage of the show’s profits benefit Gilda’s Club and the Comedians Assistance Fund.

The play is running thru December 22, 2019.

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