REVIEW: Blue Man Group an epic acid trip minus the acid

Blue Man Group has evolved from avant-garde darlings into an Les Biz theatre institution – and judging from its awe-inspiring show at the Jubilee Auditorium playing through April 1, it’s easy to see why. This is a must-see event.

The original Blue Men creators of 20 years ago, Matt Goldman, Phil Stanton and Chris Wink, have long since retired from the stage, the show having been “franchised out” and passed down to fresh trios of new Blue Men – those percussion dominated, blue-faced, bald-pated men who take on the demeanour of automatons. The overall look is similar to the robots in the classic sci-fi stinker “Creation of the Humanoids.”

The Blue Men’s expertise and purpose seem to lie solely in the creation of art and music. Everything else is met with bewilderment. Even the ingestion of food is a foreign concept to them. In fact, there were times when they reacted as if the audience was the source of the entertainment.

Using a combination of music, mime and magic, BMG set out to dazzle the crowd for the hour and 45 minute duration. And despite the robotic persona, the show is stuffed with humour, from its pre-show announcements to its eye-popping climax. BMG has a bone to pick with those who rely too much on texting and other social media, suggesting perhaps the lack of human interaction is making us all less human, and – ergo – less intelligent. Case in point: A faux ad for “GiPhone” which promises to “Do for your life what texting has done for driving.” Ironically, BMG – taking a big cue from Devo – have embraced the same technology which they mock in order to further their point about dehumanization.

While the current tour does consist of some BMG standards, like the drumbone solo (PVC piping which slides in length to change pitch) and marshmallow mouth sculptures, the show is full of new gadgets and surprises. The result is a show which redefines the word “surreal.” This goes beyond being a show. It is an event, an experience both epic and hallucinatory. It’s like taking an acid trip without bothering to go to seedy places and dealing with nefarious people to obtain the drug. The experience is so otherworldly, I’m sure applause is an inappropriate response. At one point, the narration (the Blue Men are mute) invites the audience to “get up and shake your booty,” and offers a plethora of synonyms for “buttocks” to make it perfectly clear to everyone (“The Tuskless Walrus” was a personal favourite). To show its pleasure and approval to BMG in a manner that is more apropos, perhaps the audience should collectively gasp in awe.

Even educated theatre people would have trouble figuring out how these guys pulled off most of their stunts. That’s how good they are – good enough to be put on anyone’s Bucket List. Twice!

READ interview with BMG musical director Julian Cassanetti here.