Since beginning its act 20 years ago, Blue Man Group’s distinctive performance has become a global entertainment giant. The cast of blue men has grown from the three founders to an army of nearly 90 painted performers.
Despite its globally franchised success, Blue Man Group made last week’s performances at Overture Hall in the Overture Center for the Arts feel both unique and surprisingly intimate.
Being part physical stand-up comedy, part art exhibition and part science demonstration, the group brought a performance that is difficult to package into a single term.
As the lights dimmed at the start of Blue Man Group’s show, Overture began to seem like some sort of robot church.
Two stock ticker screens mounted high on either side of the stage blinked disembodied orders to the audience. “Get to know your neighbors,” the red lights began.
The screens then instructed random members of the audience to stand as the rest of the crowd welcomed them in unison.
“HELLO [name], it’s so good to see you here,” the audience slowly read in monotonous chorus. After this warm-up, the air in Overture Hall was thick with good vibes that lasted until the final encore.
BMG turned up the intensity slowly, beginning with its well-known but nevertheless breathtaking drum and paint number.
As one blue man drummed an oil drum timpani set, the other two squirted glowing paint on the drums. When a mallet struck a drum, a plum of neon color shot as high as 10 feet into the air before splattering back onto the drum.
The visual presentation during the show was spectacular, but the bulk of BMG’s performance focused on showing the audience how music can be made out of absolutely anything.
In one act, the blue men found boxes of Captain Crunch and began feasting in each of their own charming styles. One ate the pieces one at a time. Another shoved fistfuls of cereal into his mouth. The other simply dumped the box onto his sticky blue face.
Then they chewed, each to a different rhythm. The chewing started forming a simple beat that the back-up band supported and turned into a full three-minute song. The chewing music was surprisingly pleasant and left the crowd in ferocious applause.
Instead of creating good music, legendary visual effects or Woody Allen level comedy, Blue Man Group is in the business of making the audience have a good time, whether the audience likes it or not.
During the show, the performers picked a man from the audience who was obviously trying to ignore them by hiding behind his program. They brought him to the stage.
They dressed him in a white jumpsuit and a motorcycle helmet with a black visor. The blue men then tied the blinded man’s feet to a rope that dragged him into the air until he was hanging upside down.
Another blue man unveiled a hose and sprayed the man’s body with paint. One blue man swung the hog-tied man onto a canvas where his soaking body made a dull splat as he stamped an impression of himself.
The man got to keep his work of art but appeared even surlier as he left the stage with his giant painting.
In another cheeky move, BMG stopped in the middle of performing a song, changing the video on their giant projector screen backdrop from rotating threads of DNA to live footage of a couple arriving late to the show.
One of the men revealed a hand-held spotlight from offstage and shined it on the mortified couple until they finally took their seats. The rest of the audience was in stitches and unanimously relieved that they got to their seats on time.
The show felt like it had lasted less than half an hour before BMG started its last song. The performance was so engrossing and fresh that it never once dragged.
Although the music sounds dated, it hardly detracted from the quality of a spectacular show. Blue Man Group proved that they deserve their place in American culture and have earned their status as an act that has sold out venues for decades.