While artfully doing their jobs as directed, most actors really do want to be noticed, appreciated and memorable. For the performers in Blue Man Group, it’s a different story.
The Blue Men on stage this week at Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts are all about blending in. As they climb over seats or scour the audience for willing (or reluctant) participants, you can spot the differences in facial structure under the blue bald caps and heavy makeup slathered onto the actors’ deliberately expressionless mugs.
The three futuristic Blue Men are supposed to be indistinguishable, and they are. So much so that the tour honchos refuse to reveal which of the four silent actors listed in the program as Blue Men — Mike Brown, Benjamin Forster, Russell Rinker and Scott Speiser — did what on opening night.
Created in 1987 by Chris Wink, Matt Goldman and Phil Stanton, who staged the touring show along with Marcus Miller, Blue Man Group is an entertainment powerhouse, with long-running productions in New York, Orlando, Las Vegas, Boston and Chicago, plus tours.
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People dig a Blue Men Group show for several reasons, including its focus on imagery rather than language — ideal for a multicultural melting pot like Miami.
The humor is inventive, whimsical, sometimes a little gross. The production features eight musicians in addition to the actors, who play drums (regular-sized and massive) and invented instruments fashioned from PVC pipes, and the music is masterfully performed. It’s a mash-up mix of rock and electronic stuff, mostly, but you haven’t lived till you’ve heard Beethoven’s Für Elise performed on a giant PVC xylophone-like thing.
When Blue Man was launched 27 years ago, cellphones, Facebook, Twitter and other Internet phenomena hadn’t pervaded our lives. Now, of course, they’re as much a part of our day-to-day as eating, breathing and sleeping. So production/lighting designer Joel Moritz and video designer Caryl Glaab (with an assist from the Blue Men) incorporate 21st century lighting and gadgetry such as huge “tablet” computers into the show.
That said, if you’ve caught a Blue Man Group show a time or three, you’ll notice some old reliable bits at the Arsht. One Blue Man, for example, creates art by spitting balls of paint onto a canvas. Another catches an insane number of marshmallows in his mouth, chews them and lets them ooze back out to build a sculptural mini-tower. An audience “volunteer” is dressed in a white jumpsuit, taken backstage, doused in paint, then body-slammed against a canvas to created a large-scale painting (there’s trickery involved, but we’ll let that go).
And then, of course, there’s the Twinkie dinner party. At Tuesday’s opening, the Blue Men found an elegant older lady resembling the late Dr. Joyce Brothers. They escorted her to the stage, sitting with her behind a long table. After various shenanigans, after carefully downing bites of Twinkies, the masticated and indestructible treats began oozing from mid-chest holes in each of the three Blue Men and from a puffy blue vest strapped onto their guest, who looked like she was going to faint. Yuck.
A Blue Man Group show is part theater, part concert, part party. It’s accessible to anyone of just about any age (well, maybe not the really young ones, like the kid who kept saying aloud in very specific terms that he had to go potty). And even if you have experienced some of the classic Blue Man bits before, by the time you’re helping to bat color-changing giant balls around the audience while dodging streamers and a flurry of toilet paper, you probably will be having so much fun that you won’t care.