The Richmond Register

November 11, 2012

Audience participation big part of Blue Man Group concert

By Marie Mitchell
Register Correspondent

RICHMOND — You don’t go to a Blue Man Group performance and expect to passively be entertained. Audience participation is part of the experience.

And, if you don’t enjoy yourself  at any of the groups three performances at the EKU Center for the Arts on Friday or Saturday, chances are you were born without a funny bone.

From the very start, a red-lettered crawl sign instructed us to yell if we were paying attention instead of texting. We complied with an enthusiastic holler. We collectively wished a stranger named Allen “Happy Birthday,” and told Jeff, an average guy of no particular distinction, that we loved him.

Minutes later, with drums beating in amazing precision and strobe lights pulsating, the trio of Blue Men appeared, silhouetted behind a screen. They always travel in threes, creating situations where one guy’s behavior deviates from what the majority is doing.

They never speak during the physically demanding performance (more than 90-minutes with no intermission). There’s only music, mainly drumming, and an occasional disembodied voice narrating off stage.

Blue Men wear skull caps and simple, plain black uniforms. They paint their entire head and face royal blue to intensify their expressions and stand out in the crowd. Their wide-eyed stares are of pure innocence and wonder as they target issues like technology, conformity and communication. They make us evaluate how we behave in certain circumstances with our cell phones, media messages and face-to-face interactions.

There’s a child-like curiosity about the Blue Men as they see how many gumballs they can catch and cram in their mouths. Or how high they can squirt paint by pounding on a tabletop drum. Or they discover a way to make music by crunching on cereal.

Like children, they stare, they question, they conform, they rebel, they’re impulsive — throwing popcorn at the audience or leaving the stage and climbing over seats and people in search of somebody who interests them.

A woman volunteer, treated to an awkward Twinkie dinner, faced a dilemma of whether to eat the Twinkie with her hands or cut it with a knife and fork as the three Blue guys did. The man volunteer was covered completely in blue paint, hung up by his heels and slammed against a life-sized canvas to create a piece of art (although he likely had a stunt double). 

It got get messy for people in the first couple of rows. In fact, clear plastic raincoats were provided for those patrons to protect against anything that might be tossed, splattered or flung their way.

The finale included an Ultimate Dance Party where we were encouraged to shake our bottom, keister, tush, caboose and multiple other words for “booty,” as we batted a dozen medicine ball-sized balloons around. After the show, the silent Blue Men patiently posed for pictures.

If you missed the three performances at EKU’s Center for the Arts, you can still catch their show in other cities including New York where it originated in 1987, Orlando, Chicago and Las Vegas.

Just be sure to show up on time. Late-comers are good-naturedly embarrassed by halting the action on stage, shining a spotlight on the tardy ones, along with playing a special late-comer song, until they’re seated and the show can go on.