Sunday, April 15, 2007

Blue Man Group

I arrived in Boston mid-afternoon. My luggage wasn't so fortunate. I went to see the Blue Man Group in Boston at 10:15 p.m. with some friends. This was a little late for me, but the show was incredible.

Jeff Kuo describes the Blue Man Group as following (I added a few comments):

What is Blue Man Group? Stand up comedy, theater, rock show, vaudeville, or dance? There is no easy way to describe the boundless humor, energy, eccentricity, and silliness of a Blue Man Group show.

The evening begins with de-programming to get us out of our generic theatrical mindsets. In fact, the pre-show is one of the more interesting parts of the entire evening. For instance, guests, like me, sitting in the “poncho seats” wore opaque plastic sheets nervously in anticipation of heaven only knows what sort of inundation. Sitting in the front row on the side, I had no clue why I was wearing this. I was thinking about keeping it for the marathon on Monday, but they made us give them back when the show was over. The floor crew handed out fistfuls of crepe paper ribbons to be tied as a headband. Yes, it seems silly and has no function in the show; but since almost everybody else has crepe on their heads, you actually feel more foolish if you don’t wear it.

Exercising a virtual dictatorship, electronic marquees rehearse the audience in thanking guests who have supposedly won Pulitzers or have completed the Human Genome Project; these guests are forced to stand up. Then, the marquees rehearse the audience into chanting our love for another guest “who is not particularly remarkable” so that “he deserves our love even more”; he is also made to stand up. Another guest has a headache and another has a birthday. It is actually a relief to escape the tyrannical marquee when the show begins with a percussion number.

The quasi-“Blast” and quasi-kodo-like drum numbers sprinkled throughout the evening were great, but they aren’t enough to sustain the entire show. Fortunately, they didn’t have to because if there is anything Blue Man Group resembles, it is vaudeville style variety theater. Non-narrative in content and assembled from a hodgepodge of what can only be called “skits” and “gags,” the otherwise structureless evening is unified by the percussion numbers, satirical pieces, and of course the inscrutable Blue Man Group themselves.

The Blue Men are simply amazing. Three androgynous figures in blue face and skull caps, black outfits, and boots, the Blue Men at times assume a hilarious deadpan expression and at other times look at each and at the world with a kind of childlike wonder. Certainly, they have no fear of the many fluids that comprise their act or of the unidentifiable substances that they put in their mouths (they’d be perfect for a special oral edition of Fear Factor).

The skits follow each other without pause. A game of paint splattering one upmanship is followed by long distance gumball and marshmallow mouth catching. This was incredible, they were tossing marshmallows twenty feet across the stage into each other's mouths. I think they hit like 29 of 30. The even more amazing thing is that one of the Blue Men fit the 29 marshmallows in his mouth.

They then invaded the audience and soon brought back the first of two audience participants, a woman game enough to join them in a Twinkie eating skit full of gags involving a fire extinguisher, a jig saw, and a shop vacuum. The Twinkie skit also features a gob of jello flung at the poncho seats and the ingestion of unnamable semi-liquid substances mixed with Twinkie bits. I got hit with the Twinkie mixture pretty good and was grateful for the ponchos.

As in the vaudeville tradition, Blue Man Group skits poke fun at contemporary targets – high art, Internet coffee shops, and young female pop stars, for example.

There is an Yves Klein satire involving a triptych of three fish and an audience participant who is taken offstage to be hung by his feet, smeared with blue paint, and flung against a large canvas. He was a big guy so I’m sure it didn’t hurt too much.

Another irony poked fun at people who sit in Internet coffee shops ignoring the people they are sitting next to while chatting with some strange person in virtual space that they may never physically meet.

In another skit, the authoritative electronic voice of a self-actualization rock-n-roll website advises the Blue Man Group that whereas rock music formerly was a folkish reaction to the industrialization of the modern world, now rock is all about Choreographed Dance Moves – pelvic swivels, isolations, hand pumping, and etc. The sight of the three android-like figures arms akimbo and pelvises grinding is itself worth the price of admission. Elitist high art, technology, American mass culture, whatever – they’re all grist for the Blue Man Group’s mill.

The Blue Men may disdain conventionality but they are astute enough showmen to program a fast and furious, multimedia, participatory finish. I’ll hold off on describing the big finale for those who haven’t experienced the show yet, but let’s say it involves strobe lights, very loud techno/industrial music, and a great deal of coarse, inexpensive toilet paper.

One final note – don’t show up late – the Blue Men will set off a loud siren, halt the show, and shine a spotlight and video camera on you for the entire house to laugh at.

Incredible. Check them out on the web at

Two days and the dream comes true.

1 comment:

Diane Muir said...

It sounds like this might have been good conditioning for the marathon ... never knowing what was to come next! What fun!