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Blue Man Group: New Acts, Same Hue (theater review)

Boston’s Charles Playhouse has had Blue Man Group in residence for almost three decades, and it’s a rarity to find a local who has gone with a date, family in from out of town, or during a school trip.

Yet many return for a performance that until recently, only had minor refreshes.

With the first major update since 2011, the new format of the Blue Man Group is worth another go-around of quirky and clowning performance art.

Several new acts and audience interactions, new music, and the cementing of classic favorites make for an evening of fun for your whole party.

The show has always been about connection and communication through movement, art, and music.

There are no changes there, as the deep cobalt-painted heads with wide-eyed curiosity explore the world around them. An AI character that creates profiles and leads them through the age of digital connectivity is a welcome new addition, driving the story forward with a narrative that allows the actors to focus on physical and in some cases gastronomical feats.

By this, I mean the marshmallows.

If you have ever attended this show, you know exactly what I am referencing and know that this is one of the body-defying moments that drives kids to wild giggles and adults to a mildy nauseated wonder. I’ve certainly seen this show more than a few times, and it was one of the acts I was hoping missed the chopping block.

The combination of alien-like curiosity with household items like cereal, marshmallows, rubber chickens, and gallons upon gallons of food-safe paint (it has to be given the, hmmmmm, “intimacy” with which they use it) makes the viewer reframe how they relate to the world. Why am I also not delighted by the satisfying and rhythmic crunch of cereal in my day-to-day? What songs have I missed by not banging on every inanimate object I come across?

Other holdovers include the expertly lit paint-filled drum performances, the PVC pipe and Chapman stick improv instruments, pre-show audience engagement via scrolling marquee, and the absolute shaming of people who come in late. Honestly, I would not mind if that last one came to traditional theater as well.

Blue Man Group maintains the ability for everyone to potentially be a part of the act, with multiple opportunities for audience members to be brought on stage for short skits, art creation, and musical performances. Here, performance art is inclusive, kind, and vibrant in a way that more high-brow displays could never even attempt. It takes a combination of joy, humility, and trust to don a two piece head-to-toe raincoat and get strapped to a canvas while bald performers throw paint at you. And yet, the hopeful hands of audience volunteers were plentiful because Blue Man Group has built that relationship over twenty plus years of calling us into fun and away from pretension.

The finale is reimagined but the high-energy music, rolls of paper, and audience immersion is still there.

All of the best parts of Blue Man Group have been well-maintained, while the updates will make anyone that has not been back in a while feel they are seeing something well worth the ticket price without losing any nostalgia.

This new show is certainly on my shortlist for those Thanksgiving long weekend guests. I just hope they won’t try to recreate the marshmallow act with the sweet potato casserole leftovers.

 

The Blue Man Group is currently playing in Boston, New York, Las Vegas and Chicago.
For ticket information visit BlueMan.com
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