Stage Review: Blue Man Group is loud, sassy, raucous — great fun

Paul Kolnik
Blue Man Group consists of three blue-faced alien type beings who perform what can only be described as a postmodern Vaudeville act.

Photo by Paul Kolnik, © 2010 Paul Kolnik

Paul Kolnik Blue Man Group consists of three blue-faced alien type beings who perform what can only be described as a postmodern Vaudeville act.

“Blue Man Group”

Performances continue at 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 and 7 p.m. Sunday at the Orpheum theater, 203 South Main. Tickets are $20-$85. Call 901-525-3000.

As people were leaving the Orpheum theater Tuesday night with a peppy satisfaction that usually follows a victory at the FedExForum — the entire crowd suddenly stopped and turned on its heel. The lobby became still.

There, gazing down from the balcony, was a man dressed in all-black with a shiny blue head. Someone yelled, "It's the blue man!" The race was on: everyone wanted a photo or a smudge of blue paint that serves as the Blue Man's autograph.

The exact opposite thought had occurred to me for almost the entirety of the spectacular Blue Man Group show, running through Sunday at the Orpheum. The thought being, "Please, please do not get near me. Please do not pick me to come up on stage with you."

Blue Man Group consists of three blue-faced alien-type beings who, for lack of a simpler description, put on a postmodern Vaudeville act. They make music with instruments made of PVC pipes, do some old-fashioned stage illusions, and perform wordless comedy routines, occasionally involving audience members.

But the production is also a marvel of technical wizardry. Stepping into the theater is like entering a futuristic realm of lights, sound and ideas. If the starship Enterprise had its own entertainment deck, this might be one of the shows imported from a nearby Class M planet.

Woven into the show is a message of better communication and sharing between individuals. As our gadgets become more high tech, we lose immediate contact with the people sitting next to us. One segment finds the Blue Men in possession of humongous iPads that they use to make music and change identities.

But they also spend a great deal of time getting face-to-face with the audience. Some people may love it when actors — especially mute, creepy ones — stalk into the aisles looking for people to interact with, or rather, selecting them apparently at random to bring on stage. I, for one, always hold my breath and try to make my 6-foot-tall self invisible until they are gone. Most of the audience eats up the suspense of locking eyes with an icy-faced blue man, however.

Not to give too much away, but by the end of the show, the Blue Men have incited nearly everyone's participation. There is no escape.

Blue Man Group can be loud, sassy, raucous, occasionally a little gross (they enjoy making art from things spat from their mouths), but the show is terrific fun and always intriguing. It may be hard to believe that the Blue Man Group franchise is 25 years old, but this tour blends the kind of "classic" Blue Man style with the exciting technological eye candy of rock star Las Vegas Blue Man Group.

Performance art — even performance art that is entirely commercialized — is a rare treat at the Orpheum, and one that won't leave audiences mystified, only highly amused.

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