We have all seen them by now — three iconic, blue-skinned bald guys pounding away at drums filled with splashing paint. But the story behind this award-winning, genre-bending, and record-smashing show is in some ways even stranger than the visuals. When creators Chris Wink, Phil Stanton, and Matt Goldman opened the first Blue Man Group show 20 years ago at New York’s Astor Place Theatre, they had no idea where it would lead them. Coming out of the downtown performance-art scene of the 1980s, they were used to small audiences and even smaller paydays. But their concept of a new kind of theater — loud as a rock concert, spectacular as a circus, and messy as a food fight — had legs, and two decades of touring and training has turned Blue Man into a major entertainment brand. In the process, two age-old myths got shattered. Myth One: there is no audience for new art in theater. Myth Two: what the Blue Men are doing is not theater. Call it “theater plus,” with the plus standing not only for the music, lights, props, and visuals but also, and primarily, for the audience. I spoke with current Blue Man Patrick Newton by phone last week, and he gave me three stellar reasons why you should catch one of the three nights they perform at the Granada Theatre (1214 State St.), from November 21 through November 23. For tickets and information, call 899-222 or visit granadasb.org.
1. It Breaks the Fourth Wall: “This really doesn’t happen otherwise,” said Newton, who has a degree in musical theater from Western Michigan and who grew up playing the drums. “In most shows, you don’t really ever involve the audience directly, and I have found this aspect of the Blue Man experience to be especially different and rewarding. There’s constant give and take with the audience, and they may not know it, but they are frequently in a position to pull the performance into a new direction.”
2. It’s a Bit of a Beast: “From a technical standpoint, it’s a bit of a beast, this show,” said Newton, explaining that the tour includes “more than 20 of us. Four blue men, four people to play in the band, and 12 or more crew members. But I love being in a show that has so much to it, where there are thousands of cues and things are risky and have to be pulled off every night. It’s thrilling.”
3. It’s Bald and It’s Blue: That’s not enough?