ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN The Huntington News, Oct. 25, 2012
By Sara Tucker, News Correspondent
With elements varying from a rock concert to a rave to a comedy show, the Blue Man Group pleases crowds internationally with its unusual form of entertainment. Picture this: the lights dim, the crowd is hushed, a vortex of water spins on each side of the stage and a drum beat starts. The beat is heavy, but slow, establishing a rhythm, and then intense drumming starts, with a spotlight illuminating hands that are moving too fast to see, the stark sound of drum sticks on oil drums, and the overlapping of different rhythms and styles. Welcome to the Blue Man Group.
The Charles Playhouse, home of the Blue Man Group show, is surprisingly small, with about 12 rows of seating and a small balcony. The intimate environment allowed the entire audience to interact with the show. The first six rows came equipped with clear rain ponchos, which members of the audience wore to avoid the flying paint.
The show started out with the Blue Men drumming behind a screen, spotlights lighting up each one individually. The screen lifted and the audience could see that the performers were drumming on what appeared to be oil barrels.
The beat and the mix of each performer’s own style was impressive, but the men didn’t stop there. While two of the men carried on the beat, the other pulled out a bottle of what appeared to be craft paint and started squeezing it out on the drum. The effect was immediate, and the paint sprayed up each time the drum was hit. This continued for a few minutes, but the performers kept it interesting by spraying different amounts, different colors and even bringing some humor to it by “accidentally” covering one of the men in the paint. When the men are in makeup, they don’t speak at all. But through facial expressions and body language, they are able to convey humor, anger, disbelief and surprise, occasionally bringing the audience to tears from laughter.
The Blue Men are mainly known for their drumming skills and have released multiple audio recordings, including “Audio” and “The Complex,” but many people fail to realize that the show is about much more than just music.
While the band played a song above the stage, the Blue Men took center stage, and one of them threw balls filled with paint from a gumball machine into another man’s mouth, who then proceeded to spray the paint from his mouth onto a canvas. They repeated this several times, concluding the segment when the man with the canvas held it up and spun it while simultaneously spraying the paint, creating a perfect spiral on the piece. The show-created art was given to a random member of the audience.
The production brought in a bit more humor when the Blue Men looked mystified as three “GiPhones” (giant iPhones) came out of the rafters with different apps. They preceded to each open a “GiBooks” app, each with different information about the technology age and its “takeover” of today’s society.
After opening a music app they preceded to start a dance party, complete with toilet paper hanging from the rafters and four giant air balloons bouncing around above the seats.
The show’s ending included an audience member dressed in a white suit being suspended from the ceiling in front of a giant piece of canvas. The men then splattered paint at his body. He came away unscarred, and they let him take the “masterpiece” that was the imprint of his body home.
Following the show, The Huntington News sat down to talk with Bryce Flint-Somerville, a Blue Man who has been in the business since 1992, about what it really means to be a “Blue Man.”
Huntington News: How many Blue Men are there?
Bryce Flint-Somerville: Today you saw our whole cast. So for here in Boston, there are five; three guys on [stage] and two guys off.
HN: So if there are multiple performers, how do you decide who is going to be in the show?
BFS: We don’t, our stage manager does, and they try to keep it fresh; there aren’t three guys who do it all together, and that’s really awesome for when you’re doing a show night after night, you have different energies, and luckily we all know all three roles. So even with the same combination of three guys, we can mix that up as well. So it just keeps thing[s] really fresh.
HN: Who comes up with new ideas for the show?
BFS: Officially, we have Blue Man Productions (BMP), and they’re based in New York, and they basically have the final say, but it’s such an inclusive company that I have no problems coming up with suggestions. Things have happened organically in a show that we end up pursuing several times, and then that becomes a thing; the people from BMP will come and watch it and say, “Yes, let’s keep that in.” It’s a very organic conversation, and the good material that stays comes out of that conversation.
HN: How were you picked to be a Blue Man?
BFS: Something cool [about the production] is that everyone’s stories are different. I was in New York, I was just out of college and doing the waiting tables deal, and I ushered a show. From there I decided I was going to usher again, and then I decided I had to be in the show. So I did the audition, they said, “Well you’ve got the character, and you’ve got a good grasp on that, but your drumming is pretty bad.” So they gave me some things to work on and I really worked my butt off to get to a level where I could be passable, and I went from there.
HN: Can you talk a little about the make-up process?
BFS: I get that question a lot, which is kind of funny for us because once you’ve done the show a bit, it just becomes second nature. The technical answer is that we have a bald cap that goes over our hair and ears, and over that we just put on the blue grease paint. For the application, we have to glue it down and trim it off, and you know, it’s pretty laborious, but the make-up for us as actors is kind of immaterial. Before a show, we’re not worried about putting the make-up on so much as we’re worried about getting into character. And after awhile you don’t even notice [the make-up.] We also have blue gloves, because it’s impossible to drum with grease paint on your hands.
HN: Do you prefer domestic or international shows?
BFS: I did the show in Berlin for quite awhile, and it’s such a different thing. I love to do the show here in Boston, and I personally think that the theater for Blue Man is one of the best here, in terms of the space; even the farthest back seat is still close, but every theater has its own perks. Internationally, when I was in Berlin, it was awesome to see how the German audience responded to different jokes. So I would say that it’s all unique; Blue Man is about connection, and when I put on this make-up, I am no longer a nationality, I’m not even human to a lot of people, and that allows people to open up a little.
HN: What does the Blue Man show offer college students, and why should they come to the show?
BFS: Blue Man Boston is a real artistic success to college students. Being a college student, you have to let off steam some time, and you’re so wrapped up in what you’re learning that it’s awesome to go to a theater, to be part of a community that can laugh at the absurdity of life. [Students] should definitely come to the show, because it’s always evolving, it’s like a slow evolution, and there are also student rush tickets: one hour before certain shows you can get the tickets for pretty cheap, I think they’re $30, which is pretty affordable. It’s just a great time.
Tickets are available at http://www.blueman.com/tickets/boston. Student rush tickets are $30 and can be purchased one hour before showtime at the Charles Playhouse box office.