Wednesday, March 29, 2023

No performance is as enigmatic and mysterious as the Blue Man Group. Each act always stars exactly three completely mute performers who paint their skin blue, have no hair, and wear black shirts. They look and act like walking cartoons, performing daring stunts, playing music, and most importantly, conducting funny bits that leave the audience in a state of bewilderment and laughter.

I had the privilege of seeing this incredible show this past week with my friend Yaron.

Located on Lafayette Street in New York City, the performance takes place in the Astor Place Theatre. The exterior features a brightly lit billboard displaying the Blue Man Group logo, splattered with paint and showcasing the eyes and top of a blue face staring at you, inviting patrons to enter. Upon arriving, we obtained our tickets at the box office and explored the lobby after a short wait in line. The lobby has a low ceiling and a well-lit concession stand offering drinks, food and merchandise. On the walls, classic Renaissance era paintings are displayed with a surprising twist—Blue Man performers are depicted in the paintings engaging in comical activities such as painting the ceiling or carrying plumbing pipes.

After exploring the lobby, we entered the showroom to the sound of intense drum music reminiscent of a Hawaiian luau. The ambiance was striking, with black chairs and walls in the auditorium illuminated by blue and purple spotlights. The staff was also dressed in all black, which complemented the Blue Man Group’s attire. The chairs were well padded and comfortable; however, they were low to the ground and tightly packed to maximize seating capacity.

In the past, when I was in middle school, I had the opportunity to see the Blue Man Group at Universal Studios in Florida. (Unfortunately due to the pandemic, this event is permanently canceled at that venue). I remember the performance being visually impressive and funny, and my dad even got a shoutout during the pre-show, as his name was displayed on the screen. Similarly, the New York version utilized screens to display messages and instructions for selected members of the audience. In unison, everyone in the crowd would read the message aloud and then perform the instruction, such as applauding. On one occasion, a message asked for a person to sing the national anthem. The spotlight shone on them, but the person was too shy to stand up, so the spotlight quickly shut off.

After a few minutes, the lights dimmed, and the Blue Man Group emerged. What ensued was a truly fantastic, entertaining and hysterical performance. The show began with the group playing drums in a quiet, intense, and focused manner as they stared out into the crowd, rarely blinking. Occasionally, they would look at each other, as if pondering what everyone in the audience was doing watching them. At first, it was a bit unusual to watch, but I found the oddity of it to be funny. Eventually, the drums got louder and group members began pouring paint on the instruments, creating a mesmerizing visual as the paint danced in the air to the beat of the drums.

Much of the show was filled with unique and captivating tricks that were accompanied by exaggerated sound effects. One Blue Man chewed a few balls of paint and blew them onto a sign which he spun on his finger, creating a mesmerizing spiral painting. Another highlight was when two Blue Men engaged in a game of marshmallow catch across the stage, with a loud plop noise played each time a marshmallow was caught. The Blue Man ate so many marshmallows that when he spit them out he constructed an admirable tower. There was also a funny bit where the Blue Men ate Cap’n Crunch cereal and the sound system exaggerated the noise of their chewing by blasting loud crunching sounds.

One of the strengths of the Blue Man Group’s spectacle is its interactive approach with the audience. At one point, the Blue Men climbed on top of the audience’s chairs, with one Blue Man even using a ladder to go up to the upper balcony. There, they scrutinized each guest, determining whether they would be a good candidate for the show. At last, they found a woman sitting in the corner of the aisle, ducking her head, clearly trying to hide from them so as not to be selected. However, they spotted her and picked her to be featured in my favorite part of the show: a silent restaurant date. The Blue Men brought her up to the stage, set up a romantic table with candles, and served a meal consisting only of Twinkies. The date was hilarious as they fed each other the Twinkies, with the woman unsure of what to do at first, but eventually giving in to peer pressure and joining in. Also, a few minutes into the performance, several guests arrived late and attempted to sneak into their seats. The Blue Men, noticing this, halted the performance, played an alert noise, and shone a spotlight directly at them. A song, “You’re Late,” played overhead.

The finale of the show consisted of a bizarre rave with strobe lights flashing and the Blue Men shooting toilet paper at the audience. The strobe lights caused every other moment to be in darkness, which is a similar effect to how animation creates the illusion of movement by flashing rapidly moving images with slightly different poses. Additionally, during the finale, a stick figure appeared on the screen and gave the audience instructions on various dance moves, such as waving our arms and even attempting to put our legs behind our heads (which, aside from the Blue Men, no one in the audience was able to do).

After the show, Yaron and I had the opportunity to meet Steven, a member of the Blue Man Group, and take a great photo with him. To our surprise, after nearly two hours of watching him perform without speaking a word, he began talking to us and was extremely friendly and nice. He told us that he had previously worked in the Orlando theater before transitioning to New York.

Overall, I had an amazing time at the Blue Man show. Its cringy and awkward humor reminded me of the humor in the sitcom “The Office.” Besides the humor, the tricks were captivating to watch and the acts educated me on some aspects of animation and the body’s movements. It’s a very clean and family-friendly venue, and I highly recommend checking it out if you have never seen them perform, or haven’t seen the show in a few years.

Zachary Greenberg is a consultant at Semler Brossy and is also the coach for the TABC track team. In 2018, he was elected as the sophomore representative at Yeshiva University. Recently, he watched the new live-action “Pinocchio” on Disney+. If you have any recommendations for fun places for Zachary to cover, you can reach him at [email protected] 

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