Since forming in New York 33 years ago, the inscrutable black-smock-wearing Blue Man trio, now operated by Cirque du Soleil, has entertained millions who have had their worldviews reshaped by the glowingly blue, eternally silent, and unassuming beings with pursed lips who, suffice it to say, are very much atypical in appearance and disposition, but embraced all the more so because of their idiosyncrasies. If you were to imagine outer space aliens, presumably in groups of three, who came to Earth not to invade, but to spread their joy and charmingly convey to us what they think of our way of life, you’d have the Blue Man Group.
The Blue Man experience is to entertainment as unique art is to the observer. What’s even better is that the triumvirate entertains while being quite artful on stage, not to mention melodious and ever-present, for a highly engaged audience who is absorbed into their live revue, oftentimes getting splashed and showered with confetti and streamers. After a run at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre, the Blue Man Group is back in Southern California, this time for a short stay in Costa Mesa at Segerstrom Hall through January 12th. Just don’t be late to the party or you might be publicly admonished.
Written by Jonathan Knight and Michael Dahlen, as well as directed by Jenny Koons, Blue Man Group on Tour is an 80-minute foray into a bizarre, unpredictable, and imaginative world filled with screens and a lattice of pipes and metal framework (stage is designed by Jason Ardizzone-West). Team captain Meridian (stage name), Mike Brown, Steven Wendt, and Adam Zuick portray the three mysterious men at any given performance. Flanked as they are by a rollicking band (Corky Gainsford, Jerry Kops, and Robert Gomez), audiences are treated to percussive blasts of ingenuity (composers are Andrew Schneider and Jeff Turlik), state-of the-art lighting (designer is Jen Schriever), and comedic bits involving the Blue Man Group trying to feel and make sense of their human surroundings.
The journey begins with the boom of a small gong that loudly echoes. This prompts many instances of the Blue Man Group’s unique predisposition for playing not just futuristic-looking drum sets, but super-sized hammered dulcimers, PVC-pipe contraptions (which are contracted and extended to assist with accompanying changes in pitch and frequency), and even fishing rods doubling as string instruments. In bringing their musicality to the 21st century, the Blue Man Group additionally incorporate separate greetings from the audience to cobble a remix number on the fly that is surreal to see and hear unfold.
In acting as quasi DJs, the trio venture out into the crowd as they do on many an occasion to gauge support, inspire enthusiasm, and evoke spoken words (and dance moves!) as as what is initially considered foreign becomes more comfortable for them with each subsequent minute. This awkwardness lends itself to humor as a result of audience participation. Those who partake seemingly have no idea what to expect and can only try to read the triad’s body language to do what is asked of them. This is emphasized with a “date night” scene in which two crowd members pretend to hang out with the blue gang who are learning how to cozy up to their newfound friends and take selfies. Like with any audience-participation bit, however, the success of it is linked to how much of a sport the chosen bystanders are willing to be.
Moreover, situational comedy as played by the three non-Earthlings, who are unaware of people’s motivations and how things work, is a motif throughout the occasion. There are times when it works splendidly as in when the Blue Man Group members are almost comically frightened by the thought of using a broom to sweep confetti, get into an uproarious tiff denoted simply by synchronized head thrusts, and amuse in a memorable bit when they play rock-paper-scissors a little differently than most. However, sometimes it feels like the same jokes, underscoring shock and bewilderment, are being overused, and taken further, they don’t really build on each other or progress in a linear fashion. For instance, a segment where one of the blue men finds himself in a giant TV feels not only outdated but comes across as filler. There is an overall non-sequitur vibe to the show, and though this may be intentional, it hampers the momentum at points.
Nonetheless, Blue Man Group On Tour is a winner on its creative merits alone, exemplified by the ingenious making of rhythmic bass sounds out of unlikely objects, producing miraculous outcomes insofar that the music and artistic expression feel like they’re being experienced not just with the ears and eyes, but the entire body. This is entertainment that insightfully touches on the facets and parameters of existential nature and how even something alien can be playfully human in tone. For example, in the first half of the show, one blue man expertly throws paint balls (from a gumball machine) across the stage, into the mouth of his cohort, who then sprays paint out of his mouth and onto white canvases. During the same act, another blue man retrieves marshmallows in his mouth, in amazingly frenetic succession, as the scrumptious little white pillows come darting toward him from an impossible distance. To say this is suspenseful would be an understatement, and unlike most of their human counterparts, the indigo men are effortless in pulling off these feats while doing so with an impish curiosity.
Of course, the finale involving illuminated water (violet, gold, and fuchsia colors) splashing off the Blue Man Group’s conga drums doesn’t disappoint, as it effectively gets the front row soaked, and leaves the rest wanting more time to spend with the strange but oddly likable entities who vanish as quickly as they appeared. All in all, despite some minor quibbles, the Blue Man Group on Tour is highly recommended.
For more information about Blue Man Group on Tour at the Segerstrom Center for the Performing Arts, please visit:
And for additional dates and details about the Blue Man Group’s North American tour, go to: