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‘Blue Man Group’ Review: The Absurd at Its Best

The Blue Man Group has been thrilling audiences with unforgettable, fun performances since 1991.
The Blue Man Group has been thrilling audiences with unforgettable, fun performances since 1991. By Courtesy of Blue Man Group
By Xander D. Patton, Crimson Staff Writer

From the moment the audience enters the unknown world of Blue Man Group, they are immersed into a futuristic interactive environment that provides an experience unlike anything they’ve experienced before. An immersive constant blue light floods the dimly lit venue, hinting at the performance about to unfold. A poncho awaits audience members at their seats, proving that the show may have more in store for them than they might have initially anticipated. Before it begins, a teleprompter feeds the audience physical and verbal reactions, akin to a live TV audience. An overarching element of strangeness evokes thrill and anxiety for what awaits, energizing the space before a single blue man even enters the stage.

At the Charles Playhouse in Boston, Blue Man Group presents the most action-packed night that three nonverbal performers could offer, immediately shattering audience expectations.

Since its 1991 debut, Blue Man Group continues to celebrate the success of their three-decade journey. While the specifics of their performances have changed substantially over time, Boston remains one of the select cities where they have recurring performances that seek to consistently keep the spirit and legacy of Blue Man Group alive.

In Boston, Blue Man Group presents the highlights that made them famous over the years. The performance opens with a gust of smoke followed by darkness, as nothing more than three dimly lit blue heads emerge from the shadows. Alternative percussion turns everyday objects into amazing musical and theatrical instruments from the start, as they quickly perform their famed paint drum spectacle that transforms industrial barrels and paint into explosions of sound, color, and light.

Those who have never seen a Blue Man Group performance may be caught off-guard as their epic drama is not consistent throughout the entire show. Immediately after this intense musical introduction, the blue men play a childhood-evoking game with one another, catching a variety of thrown objects in their mouths from gumballs to marshmallows. Wondering where this bit will go, audiences realize that it has turned into an over-the-top “chubby bunny challenge.” Immediately, this childish energy creates questions of who exactly this performance is intended for: Children, or the adults that accompany them? However, the blue men find an expert way to thread the needle between making sure that their performance appeals to the vast range of audience members eagerly watching their antics.

From calling audiences to stand for a dance party reminiscent of the “Cupid Shuffle” to engaging them in a game-show sequence that ends with the pretend-marriage of its contestants, it’s easy for Blue Man Group to feel absurdly over-the-top and all over the place. This extends to the group’s well known musical performances, transitioning between dramatically intense percussion songs with almost no pause, from a song using intricate PVC pipe contraptions as instruments to a song literally played on rubber chickens. With so much to keep up with, the performance almost feels exhausting at times. However, despite the nonsensical nature of these sequences, an immense laughter and joy always fills the crowd because the absurd plots and bits create an infectious energy.

The finale of the show illuminates what exactly defines Blue Man Group in this day and age. The lights fade to black before they are replaced by intense strobes. Booming techno music starts playing, replacing the typical percussion-based music associated with the group. Bubble machines fill the crowd with thousands of bubbles that illuminate the faces of children. And the blue men once again enter the audience, this time holding tissue paper cannons that they shoot across the house, directly breaking the boundary between performers and spectators. This intense shift from their prior performances cement the idea that Blue Man Group knows how to put on a memorable performance — one with twists and turns that are impossible for the average audience member to predict.

Part comedy show, part rave, part immense musical performance, Blue Man Group strives to create an unforgettable experience for its audience. Without a clearer takeaway than simply a night of fun, perhaps undefined fun is all that these three blue men need to deliver their audiences in order to make their unforgettable impact.

—Staff writer Xander D. Patton can be reached at xander.patton@thecrimson.com

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