Saturday, September 8, 2007

The Blue Man Group

Image from the Intel site, taken from one of the TV ads

One of the best things about New York city, after the museums, are the shows. We don't always go down to the city to take one in, but on this visit my son was with us too. He wanted to see one so we let him decide what it would be. He chose the Blue Man Group. Perhaps only a few of you are acquainted with this group but you may remember them from a series of Intel ads on TV, some years back. Why did Intel choose them, you might well ask. Because from their humble start at the tiny 300 seat Astor Place Theater in the East Village of Manhattan this group has become incredibly popular and well known.

Three friends conceived the idea of the Blue Man Group in the late eighties. Matt Goldman, software producer with an MBA, Phil Stanton, drummer and aspiring actor and Chris Wink, drummer and waiter for a catering company, found backing for their off-Broadway show which they performed six days a week for three years without a break, starting in 1991.

Dressed totally in black, latex masks covering their heads and their eyes peering out of blue faces covered with greasepaint which looks wet and gooey, the three mute actors performed a sort of inside "son et lumière" show, based on percussion and extravagant light displays as well as interaction with the audience. A totally fun show, it slowly gathered an audience and besides uninterrupted performances in the original theatre in the Village, there are now shows in Chicago, Boston, Las Vegas, Orlando, Berlin, Amsterdam and with a Tokyo show now in the works for later in the year. The group played for two years in London and Toronto and a touring group has been on the road with "How to be a Megastar 2.0" for the past year.

A small four man group of musicians accompany the group, who rely on deadpan expressions, with very understated reactions to things being their trademark. They act as a group of three, with the different actors being the odd man out in their reactions, but quickly reeled back by the other two. Audience participation is an integral part of the show, which culminates in the audience being shrouded in toilet paper.

The players are chosen for their similarity in size and they are totally indistinguishable once in costume. There has been an African American actor and even a woman in the Boston cast. Despite the actors being mute, there are occasional voice overs, one of which wryly noted that people go to Internet cafes, not to communicate with those present, but rather with those who are not.

I have to say I found it to be a very enjoyable show. The humour is satirical but simple and it can be enjoyed by people of all ages. The day I attended there were some large family groups, with ages ranging from preteens to grandparents. It is a bit disconcerting when a Blue Man climbs into the balcony and stares intently into your face before moving on without uttering a word. Luckily this did not happen to me, although he did lean on my head, as he climbed by.

Of course when you have an MBA, as Matt Goldman did, you know how to build on this success. The Blue Man Group is now a huge business operation, with all kinds of irons in the fire. They have carefully controlled their image, lending it on occasion to various projects, movies and appearances. They market a whole range of CDs and DVDs, even marketing as toys some of their own-designed instruments. A very successful business indeed has grown from the original idea these three had all those years ago.

Everyone says it's very hard to explain the appeal of the Blue Man Group and I don't think I can do it justice either. So I'm going to leave you with a short YouTube video so that you can have some idea of what they are all about. Here they perform a percussion solo using only PVC pipes in the Las Vegas theatre, with a larger orchestra. Please enjoy.

Just a small glimpse of what makes this show different. I wish I could show you the Twinkie skit, with a young woman from the audience showing them how to open and eat a Twinkie. It was hilarious.

A very enjoyable show for one and all. Thank you Blue Man Group.


Lee said...

That must be a very interesting show to watch...fascinating...thanks for sharing, jmb. :)

Chris said...

I wanted to see this show when it was in London a couple of years ago but the seat prices were so horrendously expensive (that's London for you!)it would have cost us the price of a cheap holiday to go. I'll start saving now in case they come again.

Tuscan Tony said...

Thanks for the intro to them, brilliant! Let's hope they hit Tuscany sometime soon.

Eurodog said...

Absolutely off the wall. I love it. I doubt very much they will ever come to Brussels.

Gledwood said...

Isn't it amazing the sounds and lighting effects (especially) they can fit onto a stage... you tend to forget when you've not been to theatre in a while how much more effective than cinema the modern productions can be! I got dragged into Cabaret once about 12 years ago ... I really did not want to go... had no idea of the Liza Minelli film... plunged straight into the stage version... wow it was amazing!

Glad you had a good time there!

Hey I came across you at somebody called Carver's blog... you were there also in the comments... I directed her to Ruth's blog and she mentioned you in her comment at Ruth's too

Crushed by Ingsoc said...

OK, I'll be honest, never seen them before.
I can't state categorically that they haven't crossed the Atlantic- There are so many TV stations now.

They remind me a bit of mime artists?

RUTH said...

I'm sure I've seen them in a show on TV here in the UK...maybe one of the Royal Variety Shows. They are certainly memorable. :o)

jmb said...

Hi Lee,
It was a fun show. I was dubious but definitely got into it once I was there.

Hi Chris,
The seats cost a fortune in NYC too. I just bit the bullet and gave my credit card. Enjoy now, pay later.

Hi TT,
I think they are brilliant too. A simple idea they really developed it and ran with it. May RAI will showcase them someday.

Hi Eurodog,
They have been on tour for quite a while. Don't know if they hit Brussels or plan too. I don't know what it would be like in a big spectacle show which is what the touring show is.

Hi Gleds,
I love Cabaret and have seen in in the theatre as well as the film. I seconded your recommendation of Ruth to Carver. Glad she followed it up.

Hi Crushed,
I'm sure many people haven't heard of them. They did have a show in London for two years and I'm sure their touring show has been there too.
They really are mime artists with percussion. They have been developed brilliantly.

Hi Ruth,
I believe they were on a British show on TV. They are unique but once you get used to them, they are great.

Thanks to you all for visiting and commenting.

Liz said...

That was great. Loads of energy and life coming from it.I've never heard of them but they sound brilliant.

Carver said...

What fun. I enjoyed the youtube clip of the Blue Man Group. I'll have to ask my sister who lives in Manhattan if she's seen their show. I'm going to New York in November for my 50th birthday celebration but we already have tickets to Spamalot so that will be the show I see while I'm there. Since we're only going for my birthday weekend, I doubt there will be time for another show but I am intrigued by the Blue Man Group. Take care, Carver


I have seen them on tv specials butI was not half as impressed as your review of the whole show. They should hire you to do PR. :)

jmb said...

Hi Liz,
I wasn't really familiar with them except for seeing them in the ads. But they were fun.

Hi Carver,
How wonderful for you to be going to New York, for your birthday. I'm sure Spamalot will be great. I'd go to a museum rather than another show if you have time. Cheaper too.

Hi Uber,
I think a short glimpse of them on TV does not give the full effect of their appeal. I hadn't been impressed before either but now I think they are great. Maybe I'm trying to justify all the money I spent on the tickets!

Thanks for visiting and commenting and regards to you all

Josie said...

JMB, I LOVE the Blue Man Group. I have always wanted to see them. There is something about their lack of expression that accentuates everything else they're doing, and just makes them hilarious.

Lucky you! Thanks for the video. I'm going to watch it again.


Janice Thomson said...

Gosh I followed the link and loved the clip on the 'toyquest' and the others as well...what a great group, both unique and funny. Thanks for this info Jmb...that was a rare treat.

Expat Traveler said...

I saw their show back in 2001 and loved it.. It was so fascinating because you learned also...

I can't believe that was like 7 years ago now!

lady macleod said...

I remember seeing/hearing about them a few years back. I love a good success story. The show sounds good fun. thank you for sharing.

Miss Pink Ponsonby said...

Hey, there! I followed your link from a comment you posted over at Pear Tree Cottage, because of the Westie dog in your profile pic! I am enjoying your blog, very fun and interesting! I liked the one about the Canadian Geese. Folks used to be so wild about them when they were endangered, now we tend to hate them. They've ruined all our beaches and lakeside parks around home with their acidic, greasy drooppings. Sigh..pop on over and visit me sometimes!

jmb said...

Hi Josie,
They are coming to Vancouver at the end of September but they are probably sold out and tickets costing a fortune.

Hi Janice
I enjoyed finding more about them on the internet too. I definitely have a different appeal.

Hi Expat,
The show is probably basically the same, but they do say people come back again and again.

Hi Lady Mac,
I only knew them from the TV ads and had no idea that they were a theatre group until my son told me. I too love the success story.

Hi Miss PP,
Thanks for coming by and leaving your kind comment.

Thanks to all of you for visiting and commenting

Alice said...

Brilliant - I love it!

What's a Twinkie?

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

I've never heard of them before but it sounds a fascinating show - just my kind of thing. That's a bit Brechtian, the bit about one staring at you intently!

jmb said...

Hi Alice,
A Twinkie is a tasteless small sponge cake filled with creamy stuff, individually wrapped for your "enjoyment".

Some people have likened them to aliens, trying to understand life on earth.

Regards to you both

Vijay said...

Thanks for the clip JMB. Different & good. I don't think I would ever have heard of this group if it weren't for you. I had seen the Intel ads, but I thought those were the product of some ad agency genius.

ipanema said...

Oh, I have watched this interesting group in one television shows jmb and they are are fantastic! Great show!

jmb said...

Vijay, I thought they were the idea of an ad agency until recently. My son told me about them and we decided to go when we were in New York

Hi ipanema,
I found them thoroughly enjoyable and I had never seen them on TV except for the ads.
regards to you both