I first encountered the work of Blue Man Group while exploring a piece they donated to the Lied Children’s Discovery Museum in Las Vegas, but hadn’t seen them perform prior to attending opening night for their brief run at ASU Gammage (which ends this Sunday).
I went into the experience with a fair bit of skepticism, since I’m more of a traditional Broadway theater kind of a gal. My daughter Lizabeth, who joined me for most ASU Gammage shows before leaving to attend college in New York, offered sound advice: Don’t judge.
Tuesday’s nearly-packed house included folks of all ages, and everyone (other than a wailing baby) seemed to be having a great time. There was plenty of laughter and audience participation throughout, and two lucky audience members ended up joining Blue Man Group for a time on stage. Only one needed to wear full body protection.
The fun actually began before Blue Man Group took to the stage, as folks in two rows of seating added for this production donned the special gear provided — a clear hooded poncho for covering head and torso. It comes in handy when Blue Man Group makes some of their messier art on canvases sometimes given afterwards to younger members of the audience.
Folks who felt uncomfortable with loinclothed lads perched atop the arms of chairs at ASU Gammage during “Hair” last season will be relieved to know that Blue Man Group stays fully clothed for all their in-the-audience antics.
But before Blue Man Group takes the stage, there’s something you might call the warm-up act — a red crawl of words running across the top of the stage as if an Italian opera is taking place below. It’s got sensible tips designed to increase viewing pleasure, but it’s a sassy little thing.
Don’t text during the show, it warns, because it might frighten the old people. The old people to my left laughed the loudest, though the young people to my right are probably saying the same thing about me.
So here’s what I remember of the evening: Gumballs, marshmallows and film footage that looks remarkably like a trip down someone’s colon. Giant cell phones with apps presenting literary classics reduced to word counts you can easily “tweet.” Entertaining “tough love” for parents too busy with gizmos to pause for playtime. And blacklights the “Hair” hippies would die for.
Blue Man Group is an homage of sorts to the arts and sciences. Physics is cleverly couched in music making, and a brief lesson in animation creation quickly turns into a full-on dance party.
Giant props make their way from stage to audience, and back again. Visions of childhood food fights and teepeeing houses (consult your urban dictionary as needed here) return — and mild sexual innuendo entertains those with a taste for such things.
Experiencing Blue Man Group is a bit like going to high school. You walk out smarter than you were when you walked in, and you get to experiment with all sorts of things along the way.
Coming up: Homeschooling and the arts, From biology major to “Blue Man”