Earlier in the week, a friend asked me what was the premise of the Blue Man Group. Truthfully, I didn’t exactly know what to tell him. The trio of gentlemen are of course blue as a Smurf’s behind. I knew they had a thing for percussive instruments and for some reason they didn’t speak. As for why and how all of this would congeal together on stage, it was a complete mystery to me. But what is life without a healthy helping of mystery?
The Blue Man Group is currently parking its tour bus at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre through the weekend. The U.S. tour began back in September 2010 and the roaming circus joins countless BMG productions (Vegas, New York, Chicago, among others) already in progress, drawing audiences across the globe. The curiously painted gents originally donned the makeup back in 1987 when founding members Chris Wink, Matt Goldman and Phil Stanton brought the phenomenon to the stage. They got their start playing various locales around the Big Apple before the production officially snagged a spot Off-Broadway at the Astor Place Theater in 1991. As they say, the rest is history.
Back to our original question, just what is the Blue Man Group? You could say they are Avant-garde performance artists, and that would capture a good chunk of the essence of this show. You could say they execute comedy like a modern day Three Stooges, and you wouldn’t be too far off target. You could also label them just plain weird, and I think you’d be correct. Regardless of what label you try to slap on them, the Blue Man Group is definitely unique. Just watch audience members find their seats only to discover their is a rain poncho awaiting them. This isn’t your typical show.
The show starts out with a scrolling ticker lifted high above the stage. It gives the audience the lay of the land (no cameras, video or texting) in a very humorous fashion. It even pulls random names from the audience manifest and assigns them mythical back stories. With a few chuckles to grease the funny bone, we are greeted to the sound of drums. We’re not talking about the puny drum kit you used to wail on in your parent’s garage. We are talking drums made to travel sound across the Serengeti. The boom and bellow of the beat filled the majestic Fox Theatre.
One thing became shockingly clear at the outset. Audience participation is required. Select members of the crowd were called upon to help the Blue Men execute certain skits. Before you cringe in blinding panic over the thought of being called up to the stage, I’m assured that our azul colored friends only cherry pick willing participants from the masses. I mean what kind of show would it be watching one of your fellow audience member pee themselves on stage?
The evening rolls out as a series of skits which has the Blue Men playing everything from drums to PVC pipe. They also toy with technology, rain the stage with multi-colored paint rainbows and somehow they’ve managed to track down the last box of Twinkies in America. Are you having trouble piecing together these wildly divergent elements in your mind? I was too when I was watching it unfold. Certain skits were clever and well thought out. Others were a bit empty and in need of a compass. Needless to say there wasn’t a lot of cohesion between the segments.
At the end of the evening, it was clear the Blue Men have a devoted following. On the way out the door, a lady in front of me gushed how they were the greatest thing in the 21st century. Unless she hasn’t discovered the Internet or seen the wonder of Mad Men, I think its safe to say she’s been blessed with the gift of hyperbole. The Blue Man Group definitely has enjoyable moments, but it is weird. It looks to make art out of utter randomness. That weirdness could easily leave you saying, “I don’t get it.” It is strange and some people won’t.
Will you enjoy the Blue Man Group? I think only you can answer that question. If you like audience participation, quirky humor and a show that colors outside the lines, you’ll probably enjoy Blue Man Group a lot. For the rest of you, proceed cautiously. A giant glowing ball may smack you in the head.
Author: Mark Runyon