BLUE MAN GROUP is a one-of-a-kind theater institution. That’s already been confirmed by current performances here in Chicago as well as in New York, Boston, Las Vegas, Orlando, Berlin, Australia, Brazil and even aboard the Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Epic. The shows continue to sell out both weekday and weekend performances, as I saw in the approving multi-generational audience at the Briar Street Theatre in Chicago.
Since this production of music, comedy and multimedia theatrics is so out of the norm, I was curious about how my first experience with three blue men would turn out since it is such a popular hit show, and playing 16 years. I took my Boston guest, Ilene Weber, and I didn’t have to worry for too long: as soon as the Blue Man Group began their unusual and sometimes slapstick antics, we were hooked.
Everything about this show is ‘different’ in a good sense of the word. With three musicians (also blue) playing weird drumming percussion instruments you won’t find in any other theater orchestra or band, the theme of this show highlights technology and how it evolved. Without a word spoken, the audience receives the message about our own rapid technological advances and its effect on us as individuals as well as communities. It asks the question: does technology bring us together or tear us apart? In this show, it brings us together in a very happy sort of way.
When we walked into the theatre, everyone in the first few rows was wearing ponchos. Had the Blue Man Group expected rain? We found out why later, when water splashed out from center stage during one of the skits. These smurf-looking Blue Men ended up sending soft projectiles from the stage, which landed in many of the audiences’ laps.
I believe a 2010 review in www.chicagotheaterbest.com said it best. Scotty Zacher exclaimed “Blue Man Group is a treat. It’s an event, and it’s enthralling. This show is a lot of spectacle, but with a lot of thought put into it as well. Perhaps most importantly, it’s the kind of show that makes people who don’t normally see theater get out and buy a ticket! Everyone wants to see Blue Man Group, the same way that everyone wants to see a big summer blockbuster. And the fact that this show manages to create something like this, and actually respect the intellect of their audience, might be one of the most notable theatrical feats of the 90’s, 2000’s and beyond.”
Six men alternate as the BLUE MAN GROUP. This summer, the actors were Collin Batten, Scott Bishop, Wade Elkins, Tom Galassi, Eric Gebow and Nick Rush. Coincidentally, the producers were having an open casting call shortly after we saw the show.
I wondered what it takes to be a Blue Man. The basic criteria, which basically eliminated me immediately, are to:be a male or female performer between 5’10” and 6’1”; have solid drumming experience; excellent acting skills; and be willing to relocate to another city or ship.
Tickets are available for $49 to $99. Tickets are at the theatre’s box office at 3133 North Halstead Street, or by calling 773-348-4000. Ticketmaster also sells tickets. Check the website
-They use combinations of technologies, such as LED screens and magic routines.
-The show forgoes traditional storytelling in favor of a more abstract exploration of technology and its evolution.
Though the show contains quite a bit of depth, it remains hugely entertaining and very fun for its audience.
-Blue Man Group interacts with its audience, so you never know whether you’ll become a part of the spectacle.
Photos: Courtesy Blue Man Group