Blue Man Group may be the biggest, brightest (and certainly, bluest) theater success story of the past quarter century, evolving from a guerrilla street performance trio to a hugely popular international operation with ongoing productions in five American cities, Berlin and Tokyo. They’ve appeared in TV commercials. They’ve made CDs and DVDs. And they’ve got touring companies as well.
One tour landed at Proctors in Schenectady earlier this week, and it’s a head-spinning journey through the hallways of pop culture, across the industrial landscape and down the information highway. It’s not the intimate performance art troupe of original members that made their Nippertown debut 21 years ago in front of a small crowd at Union College’s Nott Memorial. Nor is it the hilariously over-blown, megawatt rock ‘n’ roll parody that landed at SPAC in ’03 and at the Pepsi Arena in ’06.
Instead, it combines many of the best elements (and the same “sketches,” for lack of a better word) from both into a perfect evening of very smart and very silly fun. There are lots of laughs – sight gags, contemporary vaudeville routines, witty literary jokes, messy slapstick and any number of how-in-the-hell-did-they-do-that moments.
If you already know BMG, you probably already know all about the paint-splatter drumming, the Cap’n Crunch cantata, the PVC pipe-organ drumming, the marshmallows, the Big Drum drumming, the spewed paint-ball art, the Twinkie dinner and, well, more drumming. If not, I’m not going to spoil the surprises by recounting the details here. I am, however, going to encourage you to go and experience it for yourself. Bring the kids. Bring the grandparents. And if you’re sitting in the front rows, bring a raincoat (or BMG will provide one for you).
Running about an hour and 45 minutes without intermission, the show is equal parts performance art, stand-up comedy, audience participation, rollicking rock ‘n’ roll and pointed cultural satire. That’s an awful lot to cram into one show, especially considering that onstage, Blue Man Group makes a lot of noise, but they remain mute. They are three bald azure beings who are relentlessly inquisitive and percussively obsessed. But they don’t speak a word.
They are naive, but intuitively razor-sharp. They are performance artists who skewer the art world. They are rockin’ drummers who poke fun at rock concert rituals. They are blue, and you’re not.
BMG has embraced more and more technology over the years, just as they’ve ridiculed it. And there were a couple of glitches in Wednesday evening’s performance – most obviously one of the three screens failed to come down out of the theater’s fly-space for the live-action-meets-video bit – but few in the crowd seemed to notice, and onstage the Blue Man (Men?) covered nicely for the technical gaffe.
While quite a few of the show’s segments are by now official BMG classics, they managed to keep the performance fresh and contemporary with new bits that thumb their blue noses at iPads, Lady Gaga and more.
The performance is at once sublime and ridiculous, and the Blue Man Group at Proctors is likely to be the best Marx Brothers-meet-Jackson Pollock evening that you’ve ever spent in a theater.
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
FUN FACT: Blue Man Group made its (their?) area debut on April 20, 1990. As part of the always intriguing Proctors Too performance series, the creators of BMG – Matt Goldman, Chris Wink and Philip Stanton – offered two shows at Union College’s Nott Memorial Building. Tix were $12.50.