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Thursday 13 Jun 2024

Painted Food as Art
Michelle McClory

If your question is where to go for fun, then Blue Man Group is the answer!

If your only familiarity with Blue Man Group stems from their appearances in a series of Intel commercials, you are in for big surprise.

Blue Man Group provides 90 minutes of uninterrupted fun, for all audiences of all ages. The Group combines vaudeville with modern techno to create performance art that makes fun of performance art, in general.

Theres not much lacking in this show. The percussion pieces enthral. The good spitting is gross, but fun. The mime is genuinely impressive. Unlike Stomp and Slavas Snowshow, the Group has everything that audiences are hoping for, and more.

Matt Goldman, Phil Stanton and Chris Winked formed the Blue Man Group. Theyd worked as three bald, mute and blue skinned characters, in 1991. The success of that effort surpassed their individual successes, as street performers or buskers, in New York City.
The idea behind the show is he audience is viewing three aliens acting in ways they find pleasurable. A percussion piece begins the show. Topping the drumheads is fresh paint. The three Blue Men wear welding masks to protect their faces from spattering paint, as they beat on the drums. The splattering paint creates an illusion of molten metal flying all over the place. Though the audience may find some of their pieces odd, the aliens show enormous enthusiasm, which makes the difference.

The original Group show still runs, off-Broadway, and, since 1995, there are spin-off shows in Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas and even. The Berlin show, coupled with the current Toronto production, has turned the Group into an international success. The Toronto production stages at the new Panasonic Theatre. The industrial motif of the Panasonic, which includes cement and metal, is an ideal setting for this show.

The signature piece of the Blue Man Group involves one of the Blue Men throwing paint balls at one of the others, who catches the paint balls in his mouth, and them spits them on to a waiting canvas. At the same time, the third Blue Man stuffs his mouth with tiny bits of clay, which he spits on to the canvas. The piece peaks when the clay-spitting Blue Man places a $4000 For Sale sign in the front of the creation.

The shows unifying theme is satire, created by a combination of food, art and information. The idea is to reveal how food and information may combine to create works of art. A video, which runs during the production, stresses how the world is a series of connection among disparate parts.

The audience likely assumes the implied connections are a result of the Internet. The Blue Men debunk this assumption, when they begin banging on sections of PVC pipe, revealing the true connection is simple plumbing. They add percussion to this piece by chewing Captain Crunch cereal, which reinforces, if abstrusely, the plumbing connection.

Toss a 4-piece rhythm band into the mix, and its an experience not soon forgotten. The technological beauty of the performance stems from integrating live acting, video projections and music. Virtual Blue Men create music by banging their heads on interconnected monitors.

There are more than three Blue Men, today. Scott Bishop, Tom Galassi, Yann, Geoffrey, Randall Jaynes, Jason McLin and Jonathan Taylor have joined the original members. Whom you see depends on what version of the Blue Man Group you attend; any combination of original or new members is possible, and all are equally adept.

As with Stomp, audience members of all ages have licence to unleash their childlike imagination to confront the world. As with Gallagher, the fruit smashing comic, a Blue Man Show is messy. On a Tonight Show with Jay Leno appearance, the Group covered the audience, and Jay, in toilet paper. Ugh.

The Blue Men get so messy, if youre sitting in the first few rows, youll find a plastic poncho on the seat when you arrive. Just like Gallagher. You may find yourself caught up in the moments and decide youd like a coating of paint, Jell-O or bits of flying food. No show is complete without a flood of crepe paper released over the audience, amid UFO-like flashing strobe lights. Vaudeville was never like the Blue Man Group.

The Group presents a fast-moving, thorough enjoyable show. They perform raw physical comedy, oh so well. Audience involvement is the capstone. If you are not looking for a good interactive evening out, stay home or sit far back, say in the next town. I give the Blue Man Group four hearts for a pleasing, entertaining and downright fun experience.


"Blue Man Group," according to "Daily Variety" for 2 October 2006, exits the Panasonic Theatre, in Toronto, as of 7 January 2007. This is the first satellite version to close. Others units run in Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas, Berlin and London, with Amsterdam scheduled to open in December 2006. The Toronto "Blue Man Group" opened in mid-2005.

Slow ticket sales, writes Richard Ouzounian, in "Daily Variety," is blamed. Opening in Toronto 14 years after New York dulled the lustre for theatre goers. Poor sales also reflect the lack of bulk buying by schools, an especially important source of revenue for live theatre in Toronto.

Canadian Actors Equity (CAE) demanded "Blue Man Group" performers be union members, which isn't the case elsewhere. Show producers balked. CAE called for a boycott. Teacher unions in Ontario, as a show of support, refused to take school groups to the show. Ticket sale projections were off by a country mile.

Live Nation, which refurbished the old New Yorker Theatre and renamed it the Panasonic, expects to continue offering live theatre. "Avenue Q" and "The 25th Annual Putnam Country Spelling Bee" are rumoured replacements for "Blue Man Group."

Michelle McClory was the first writer to contribute to Grub Street.

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