By John Benson
Perhaps it’s a sign of the times, but the Blue Man Group has downsized.
However, it’s not what you think. Instead, the show based around three bald and blue painted characters taking audiences on a journey into their world has scaled down its arena show to fit into theaters.
“We revamped the show about a year ago,” said Blue Man Group Music Director Chris Reiss, calling from Orlando, Fla. “What we’ve done is taken the idea of the arena show and squished it down into a theater production but kept many of the high-tech elements. So there are a lot of new experiences and high-tech video for the audience, and it’s more of an intimate experience. That was the overall idea of this new tour, that the audience feels as though it’s almost on stage, which is awesome.”
The new sound, set and video design center around a proscenium-sized LED curtain and high-resolution screen that creates an entirely new, high-impact visual presentation. Included in the multimedia experience is the music, in which Reiss plays his part as a string player in the live band.
Basically, the idea is while the Blue Man Group is visually blowing your mind, the band is performing a haunting tribal rhythm soundtrack. In fact, Reiss, who joined the Las Vegas production in 2005 before moving to Florida in 2007 to perform with a Blue Man Group, said from a musical standpoint each of the shows is often different.
Sure, The Blue Man Group is unique, but Reiss is saying that the act is akin to a jam band reinventing itself every night. Even though this seems a little unlikely for a Broadway-level touring production, the guitarist is adamant.
“It can be different from night to night depending on the audience itself and how they react to the Blue Man,” Reiss said. “We’re very primal. That’s how we communicate with the audience. So depending on what the Blue Man will do, we add a bunch of improv into the show, but it’s a little bit different from jamming. We actually communicate.
“Depending on how Blue Man interacts, we’ll throw each other a riff or we’ll pile upon that line depending on how they feel. If they’re feeling cautious, we’ll bring it back. But if they find a new prop to experience into their own culture, we’ll bring up the music and just go off of that.”
Just going off that has been the Blue Man Group’s motto for over a quarter of a century when the then-roving street act in the Big Apple grew into an off-Broadway hit and eventual traveling production featuring three mute performers wearing blue grease paint and black clothing. Its shows, which are family-oriented and funny, feature the stars exploring the world and ultimately providing a satire of modern life.
The current tour finds the three aliens of sorts exploring the idea — or lunacy — of emailing or texting someone sitting in the next office rather than walking over to talk to them face-to-face.
What may be viewed as nothing more than a goofy show without meaning has high aspirations — to help people discover life’s unlimited possibilities.
Said Reiss, “The show allows you to sit back and enjoy and celebrate the things we’ve learned about our own culture.”