Blue Man Group Turned the Arsht Into a Raucous Party
Photos by Paul Kolnik
By now, the Blue Man Group has become a reliable brand, much like Cirque du Soleil and its various offshoots. Like Cirque and its ilk, the Blue Man Group has yet to grow tiresome or overindulgent, even in spite of the constant exposure. Somehow, the sight of these oddly endearing blue-skinned beings never fails to fascinate, and though the premise may seem well trod, the simple quirks and innocent-yet-knowing personalities these blue beings bring still manages to evoke a charming childlike appeal.
Opening night of the Blue Man Group's all-too-brief visit to the Arsht was a perfect example of how familiarity is yet to breed contempt. From the opening pre-show pep rally -- instigated by a series of smart-ass comments scrolled on screens flanking either side of the stage -- to the tumultuous, all-out, anything-goes finale that includes giant helium balloons and streams of confetti (made from recycled paper, it's duly noted), the Blue Men brought with them a non-stop display of manic mayhem and relentless revelry. Yes, it was unlike anything one might otherwise experience in the Arsht's hallowed halls, but only the most staid and solemn patron could fail to appreciate the playfulness of the proceedings.
To be sure, audience involvement was all but ensured. The trio roamed through the theater frequently, climbing on the seats, walking up and down the aisles, peering at audience members with strange, befuddled expressions. A couple of late comers were captured on camcorders as they were escorted inside, bringing the performance to a halt as a chorus of "You're late, you're late" was played over the speakers for the crowd's amusement. Later, two people were plucked out of the audience and compelled to join the group onstage. The first, a genial grandmotherly type, seemed somewhat reluctant (naturally!) as the Blue Men gingerly walked her up the aisle and persuaded her to join them as they snacked on Twinkies, precisely parcelled as if for a feast. Naturally, all communication was non-verbal -- the group dispenses with dialogue in favor of spontaneity -- but it didn't take long for this volunteer to follow her hosts' lead and exhibit her bemused obedience. A second "volunteer," an only slightly more enthused young man, was taken backstage where, as the audience watched via closed circuit TV, he was slathered with pink and blue paint, cast upside down like a carcass and then swung into a blank canvass to demonstrate an abstract form of body art. It was weird, but improbably amusing.
In fact, any close encounter with the blue beings was a bit unnerving to begin with. Although the show has no plot to speak of, the Blue Man Group manages to be entertaining merely by going through the motions. Giant onstage screens made to resemble high tech smart phones provided the props needed for various sight gags, while several high volume percussion playing interludes -- ably assisted by an especially energetic four man band hidden in the shadows of the upper rafters -- led to exhilarating experiences as well. Yet, in most cases, all it took was watching the group's whimsical reactions and curious yet playful antics to amp up the amusement and entertainment to the max. Despite their stoic expressions, each Blue Man seems to have more than a touch of mischief built into his DNA, and when they interact with one another, it's the Marx Brothers that comes to mind.
Not everyone in the audience was enthralled, however. A couple sitting in front of us was clearly unimpressed and left prior to the end of the performance (The two hour show didn't offer the benefit of an intermission.) Some people simply shrugged in bewilderment. Others relished the Blue Men's childlike motions, and one young lady seated behind us repeatedly uttered a series of "ohhhhhhhs" as one might while watching a baby take its first steps. And once the helium balls were tossed into the crowd and the confetti rained down, any hint of indifference was forgotten. The scene resembled not so much the conclusion of a performance -- where audience participation was prompted by a series of rock concert cues displayed on the monitors ("fist pump," "swinging your arms," "push towards the ceiling," and the like) -- but something so celebratory it looked like the stroke of midnight on New Years Eve in Times Square. It was hard to reman unamused after that.
Actually, there was no reason to leave unamused at all. Given the array of visual accompaniment, slight of hand and visual effects, the Blue Man Group emerges as part concert, part stage show, part spectacle and more than a little bit wacky. It's hard to beat the Blues when they're shaded this superbly.
Blue Man Group runs through Sunday, May at Ziff Ballet Opera House, Adrienne Arsht Center, 1300 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami. Tickets start at $28. Visit arshtcenter.org, or call the Box Office at (305) 949-6722.
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