Bald, Blue and Brilliant
|Blue Man Group
Through Nov. 20, 2011
Tickets start at $25
Before I headed to Segerstrom Center for the Arts to see the men of blue, I needed to do a little research. It was time I figured out who and what Blue Man Group is all about. Throughout most of my adult life, I have heard about the group, seen their painted faces on commercials and late night television, but have just never gotten my act together to catch a plane to Vegas and go see them. Thanks to the innovative programmers at SCFTA, I did not have to travel far to catch the trio’s touring production, which will be with us in Costa Mesa until November 20.
I turned to the Internet to learn a bit about the history of this three-man show and the premise behind the performance. It all began back in 1988 in New York City, when three friends – Chris Wink, Matt Goldman and Phil Stanton – got together and got bald and blue. Young and artsy and full of energy, the friends founded the Blue Man Group “as a way to celebrate the human spirit through music, science, art, and theater.” The trio performed around New York with handmade instruments (PVC scraps they found on Canal Street) until they landed a gig at the Astor Place Theater.
The group took off – sold out shows eight weeks in advance and their popularity was as viral as it could be for the time –early in the 1990s, a time when performance art and ambient musicians and composers like Philip Glass and Laurie Anderson were getting some mainstream recognition and experimenting with all kinds of media in that brave new world before the Internet, YouTube and social media.
The Blue Man Group has grown with the times, and what started out as three friends putting on a show has grown into a multimedia empire, all based on this innocent fellow, the Blue Man. He is child-like, naïve, silly, playful, yet innovative and insightful. The Blue Man never utters a word, but speaks volumes through pantomime and his own brand of slapstick humor. Intentionally, there are never more than three Blue Men performing together, and during the show, they explore this triangular relationship. The audience is witness to their synergy – there can be an odd man out with a “two against one,” straight individualism or a group consensus. As the three partners profess, it makes for good theater and has worked beautifully for the business that is all blue.
As of 2008, there are 70 Blue Men performing here in the US and internationally. They perform in New York, Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas, Orlando, Berlin, Tokyo, and Zurich, as well as headline on the Norwegian Epic cruise line. The group has been nominated for a Grammy award and continues to create music, DVDs and documentaries. They are currently in final production of an IMAX 3D film, have a touring children’s museum exhibit and an art-based charter school in New York.
Now that I knew what they were, I was anxious to see what they do that makes them so spectacular and special. It is quite a performance, no doubt a “Phenomenon” as their advertising professes. I don’t want to give it away, as it is thrilling to see this show as a newbie. As I found, the shows have definitive underlying themes – science, technology and makes many references to the common problem of sensory overload. They refer often to pop culture – there are some great bits with some of our American favorites: Captain Crunch and Twinkies! Blue Man Group is family-friendly, interactive, lively, colorful, thought-provoking, yet it is definite that they do not take themselves too seriously.
If the intention is to make a connection with the audience and evoke pure positive emotion through the experience, then it was mission accomplished. A show full of innovation and surprises, we took away some bold blue joy, and were spared the trip to Sin City.