So, “Blue Man Group.” It is quite simply not a traditional night at the theater. This rock show-meets-performance art piece is still going strong after nearly 30 years, and still manages to keep the shtick fresh for audiences new and old.
For the uninitiated, Blue Man Group is three guys dressed in black outfits, blue makeup and blue headpieces. They never speak, using body language and facial expressions to communicate. The show features no real plot – it’s a series of comedic set pieces. There’s a backing band that rocks the house, various visual gags, audience participation, oddball percussion instruments constructed from PVC pipe and assorted mischievousness. Oh, and toilet paper. Lots of it.
There are a few jabs at society’s obsessions with electronics and consumer culture. But there’s also a guy stuffing his mouth with marshmallow after marshmallow. It’s the kind of show that demands your attention – as wordplay on big screens is part of the fun. But it’s also pretty laid back. An ability to just go with it, to allow yourself to enjoy it, is key.
It’s a party, and on opening night, that was the general vibe at the INB Performing Arts Center. I had newbies on one side – my 10-year-old daughter, and an older couple (mid-70s, I’d guess) beside her. On the other were Blue Man veterans who’d seen the troupe a number of times, including in Las Vegas. Myself? I’d seen Blue Man before, in Chicago 15 years ago. It’s safe to say we all had a blast.
Those sitting in the first few rows – the orchestra pit – are in the poncho seats, to protect their clothing from paint splatters and flying Twinkies. And as one woman sitting a couple rows behind me learned, even a seat in the middle of a row is no protection from being called up on stage to participate. She was game, and sat in on an extended bit that included flying Jell-O, a vacuum hose, snack cakes and some tomfoolery.
Rather than try to describe what we experienced Thursday, here are a few things you should know.
• Go in with the right frame of mind and prepare to laugh. There are some astonishing gags in a Blue Man Group show, so enjoy them.
• Be aware of noise levels. As we walked up the steps, an usher suggested my daughter could use ear protection and pointed us to guest services where they were handing out earplugs. Good thing. My hearing’s already pretty shot from years of loud rock shows, so I was OK. My kiddo, however, put in the plugs when it got loud, and she was glad she had them.
• Get to your seats a bit early and enjoy some pre-show fun, courtesy of the two reader boards posted on the stage. And if you’re late? Well, you may be in for a surprise.
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