If you ever wonder why the “Blue Man Group” is referred to as “a group” when only three men in blue are in the posters, then you need to see the spectacular production at The Kentucky Center for the Arts. They are a “group” because besides the three iconic shaved men covered in blue paint, we actually see seven men and several backstage hands on stage at one point or another. The show still centers itself on the three blue men, yet four others, not in blue, are seen stage left and stage right playing an array of different instruments and wearing glow-in-the-dark neon costumes and makeup.
This is the third time I’ve seen this exciting production of lights, sound, technology and imagery, and for the first time, the show was minimalistic in its production elements. This is necessary because the show is a traveling production, which must be adaptable to all stages and, of course, be fit to travel “across American.” The first time I saw the show was in New York and the second time in Las Vegas – cities where special effects and grand entertainment are expected. Yet after seeing the touring show at The Kentucky Center, I have to say I found it much more entertaining and fulfilling than those with more lights, gadgets and trickery.
The show, which starts with a written invitation to participate, establishes a rowdy mood from the beginning and does not let go. The Blue Man Group doesn’t talk; they simply play odd instruments, perform physical tricks, and incorporate several members of the audience to entertain us.
The production depends a lot on lights, sound, music, video projections, lasers and, most of all, audience participation. At the same time, the three men in blue have to perform a variety of physical tricks as well as paint with their mouths; play instruments that have been covered in liquid paint and light up as they are being played; and – the most amazing thing – communicate with each other and the audience without words. The non-verbal interaction is performed with great timing and precision, creating tension, long silences and facial reactions that consistently generate laughs throughout the show.
There are several funny and memorable segments, one of them involving an audience member who is invited on stage, seated at a table, and, along with the Blue Man Group, attempt to eat a Twinkie…in silence. This might sound simple, but the trick is that the audience member doesn’t know what she (it was a woman the night I attended) is supposed to do. So the three men in blue simply wait to see what she does. Finally, when she realizes what she needs to do and attempts to do it, the Blue Man Group copy her every action and reaction. Simultaneously, a variety of unexpected effects of light, sound and “goo” occurred all around them, producing a riotous response from the audience.
A second segment involves giPads or ginormous Pads, manipulated through video projections, sound and coordinated movement. These giant iPads serve as a vehicle to transform the Blue Men into digitized avatars, becoming an array of characters and performing different activities that produce sound, color and light.
Blue Man Group installation by Western Middle School students. Photo by Jackie Pallasen.
Later, the audience is invited to learn the seven essential moves needed when attending a rock concert. Every move is demonstrated in digital images and then, a voice asks the audience to execute them. By the time the seventh movement is presented, the audience is on its feet, demanding an encore.
Perhaps the most memorable and exciting moment came when giant, floating white beach balls are sent into the audience. These balls change color every so often, and while the audience is occupied tossing them in the air, a spectacle of lights, sound and exploding paper fireworks tool place inside the theatre, creating a carnival atmosphere where everyone rejoices while dancing to the awesome electronic beats. And speaking of beats, the live electronic music is perhaps the most energizing score I have ever heard.
The Blue Man Group is pure fun, a show that is appropriate for all ages and one that will make everyone happy. The show may be absurd at times, but it is also entertaining and even teaches us about science, the digital age and technology. It’s a show that should not be missed.
Editor’s Note: To help promote the Blue Man Group’s appearance, PNC Broadway in Louisville asked the Louisville Visual Art Association to facilitate, through its Open Doors program, an installation created by artist Tara Remington and students from Western Middle School. The sculpture will be in residence on the patio in front of The Kentucky Center for an indefinite period.
Tim & Dair Mathistad
Katie & Chris Haulter
Kathy Todd Chaney
Angie Reed Garner