Tom Strini
Blue Man Group

A Big Show with a Big Heart

By - Jan 4th, 2012 12:51 am

Blue Man Group shows have grown with the size of their venues. Paul Kolnik photo courtesy of the Marcus Center.

A gigantic, overwhelming Blue Man Group show opened Tuesday night at Marcus Center Uihlein Hall. A dozen balloons the size of Volkswagens bounced through the hall. The three Blue Men pounded out rhythms on amplified drums and marimbas made of tubing. A four-man rock band, made-up in day-glo and high aloft on scaffolds, blasted music. Astonishing graphics erupted on high-definition digital screens that filled the entire proscenium opening.

Even in this age of electronic theatrical spectacle, this touring Blue Man show is a jaw-dropping marvel.

That would have been plenty. But the creators and this particular cast of Blue Men somehow managed to carve out some intimacy and quiet amid all the racket and fireworks. The charm the show had when I saw it 15 or so years ago in a small theater in Chicago lives on in this enormous thing.

The Blue Men go about their work patiently. They create the impression of figuring out what to do with a stick, drum, pipe, paint, tableware, Capt’n Crunch cereal, six-foot cell phones or whatever else they encounter. They’re curious. They strategize. And thus they make us curious, they make us wonder what will happen next. So the show doesn’t just blast you out of your chair with one big effect after another. It has pace, build-up and payoff, and the payoff is very often a hilarious surprise.

I wish that the producers revealed exactly which three of the five Blue Men on this tour were active Tuesday night. I recognized Kirk Massey, whom I interviewed, from his head shot, through the blue make-up. He and the other two gentlemen were marvelous. Blue Men are mute, but they do have personalities. Massey was the overeager one, out ahead of the patient and only occasionally perturbed leader. The third was timid, reluctant, always behind the curve, and had to be moved to action by the goading stares of his partners. But he always had the biggest finish.

They interacted a lot with the audience. They waded out into the house and took their time selecting participants. One fellow found himself hung by the ankles and used as a human paintbrush. A lovely, and as it turned out very funny, young woman took a place at table for a Twinkie lunch with the Blue Men. They projected an endearing earnestness as they tried to please and amuse their guest with one absurd object or action after another.

When I spoke with Massey, he described the Blue Men as artworks that had come to life. But after seeing this exhilarating show Tuesday, I think of them more as the impulse toward art that lies within all of us. Their sole motivation is to make something beautiful and fun from everything and everyone they encounter. The Blue Men might not be exactly human, but they do represent the best thing about humanity.

This show, which attracted a large audience Tuesday, is part of the Marcus Center’s Broadway Series. Repeat performances are set for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 4-8. Tickets are $25 and up at the Marcus box office, 414 273-7206, and online.

0 thoughts on “Blue Man Group: A Big Show with a Big Heart”

  1. Anonymous says:

    And remember, thanks to Patsy Tulley and the Milwaukee Art Museum, many of us saw the original Blue Man Group back when they were not well-known! They performed (was it the late 80??) at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

  2. Anonymous says:

    That’s right, Lee Ann! How could I have forgotten the original three Blue Men a ppearing as part of a MAM performance art showcase, probably about 1986? We were there!–Strini

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