Courtesy of Blue Man Productions
Banging on makeshift drums, covered in blue paint and refusing to speak, Blue Man Group isn’t a troupe of stubborn toddlers, but a 25-year-old production with a child-like innocence and uninhibited, audience-involved performances.
What started as a three-piece production in 1987 has now grown into a worldwide phenomenon. With permanent shows in large cities, including New York City and Tokyo, Blue Man Group is traveling the U.S. in its first North American theatrical tour. Blue Man Group is scheduled to perform Tuesday through Sunday at the Palace Theatre.
The group has traveled in the past, performing in concert venues, but musician Jerry Kops told The Lantern the show is meant to be seen in a theater.
“We’ve done rock show tours, but this is meant to bring what we do in the sit-down shows to a larger audience, so they can get a taste of what other people have seen in the larger cities,” Kops said. “The interaction is the same in the sit-down shows — we go out and pick audience members, they are constantly interacting,”
Kops, 35, joined Blue Man Group in 2006 as a string player. Although he was getting paid to play guitar with bands as a teenager, Kops said he decided not to pursue a career in music. He was working as a registered nurse when he saw Blue Man Group perform in Las Vegas. The next week, he submitted his resume online, got a call the next day, auditioned the following day and has been performing with the blue men ever since.
Kops said the physicality of the musicians matched his own style of performing.
“It’s hard to not notice the blue men on the stage, but the way the music was delivered really captivated me,” Kops said. “The band members moved around the way I moved around on stage.”
While the founding members of Blue Man Group only perform at special events, they remain involved in the direction of the company, which includes more than 50 blue men worldwide . Each show has three blue men and four musicians , who are also decorated in different colored fluorescent paint. The themes of the show — exploration, discovery and learning — have remained the same, while the show itself is constantly changing.
“There’s a lot more technology involved in the show — they like to focus on what’s current and relevant in present-day society,” Kops said.
Along with the band, the blue men pound on PVC pipes and drums filled with paint to create a visually remarkable show. Blue Man Group performances are a combination of music, humorous skits and audience interaction, which is at times planned, but sometimes spontaneous. For instance, if an audience member leaves the theater to use the restroom, the blue men might stop the show for a moment to, without speaking, question where the person is going, or “poke fun at them.”
Blue Man Group is also known to make fun of human interaction with technology. While society’s dependence on cell phones might be a part of the social commentary of the shows, Kops said the performance isn’t meant to teach the audience a lesson.
“It’s just supposed to be fun,” Kops said. “Just experience the moment and don’t think too heavy of it.”
Blue Man Group doesn’t target specific audiences. Kops said the range of humor in the performances makes it suitable for all ages, including college students.
“There’s definitely a party element to it. It’s a touch to that innocent quality in everyone,” Kops said. “You’re in that state of, ‘I’m not a kid anymore, but I’m too young to feel this old,’ and I think that vibe is alive in the shows.”
Kops said the performers receive mostly positive feedback from audience members who are “enthralled” with the blue men, but he does recognize that the Blue Man Group isn’t for everyone.
“It doesn’t happen a lot, but we have experienced people telling us they hate the show,” Kops said.
Jesse Massaro, a first-year in theatre, said he wouldn’t go see Blue Man Group, but he can understand why they are still popular.
“I haven’t seen them, but it seems a little outdated. I remember watching videos of them in elementary music class, and I doubt it’s changed,” Massaro said. “It’s probably popular because it’s so outrageous — a bunch of blue guys dancing around and acting crazy.”
Wladimiro Villarroel, a fourth-year in theatre and Spanish , said he doesn’t plan to see the show in Columbus, but he has heard good things about Blue Man Group.
“My parents went to New York and saw them live,” Villarroel said. “They said the show was really energetic and fantastic.”