Review: Shake it with Blue Man Group

Jun. 19, 2013 | 0 Comments
The Blue Man Group comedy trio entertained the opening night crowd at Blaisdell Concert Hall with their signature drumbone instruments and thundering percussion Tuesday, June 18. The show runs through Sunday. (Star-Advertiser photo by Jamm Aquino)

The Blue Man Group comedy trio entertained the opening night crowd at Blaisdell Concert Hall with their signature drumbone instruments and thundering percussion Tuesday, June 18. The show runs through Sunday. (Star-Advertiser photo by Jamm Aquino)

REVIEW BY JOHN BERGER / jberger@staradvertiser.com

The oft-heard phrase “last but not least” came to mind Tuesday, June 18, as Blue Man Group opened its Hawaii debut engagement at the Blaisdell Concert Hall. The show — call it BMG for short — is the final ticket in what was marketed as a three-show package that began with “Wicked” last fall and continued with “Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles” last month. BMG ends the series with a bang.

Literally.

Percussion, high-tech video effects and high-decibel electronic dance music is the foundation of the production. Take ear plugs. Just in case. You may need them. Be prepared.

When the volume is dialed down the characters of the three “bald blue alien thingies” take over. They’re curious, adventuresome and somewhat competitive with one another — good qualities for entertaining theater.

Kids will enjoy the broad visual comedy found in several segments. There is also some “adult” content in the show that alert grownups will enjoy and kids won’t even notice.

The Blue Men are supported by several neon-clad musicians suspended in cages on either side of the stage, and a larger stage crew. The crew includes a video camera operator whose work brings a close-up perspective to the performance and makes it much more visual for folks who are seated toward the back of the concert hall, upstairs or off to the side.

PVC pipe in various configurations are the instruments of choice for Blue Man Group, who were accompanied by neon-clad musicians during their opening night performance at  Blaisdell Concert Hall Tuesday, June 18.  (Star-Advertiser photo by Jamm Aquino)

PVC pipe in various configurations are the instruments of choice for Blue Man Group, who were accompanied by neon-clad musicians during their opening night performance at Blaisdell Concert Hall Tuesday, June 18. (Star-Advertiser photo by Jamm Aquino)

The audience gets primed for the show early as a series of witty announcements scroll across an electric sign board before the lights go down. Are the people named in some of the announcements actually in the house? It didn’t matter. The crowd responded.

BMG’s first number showed what happens when colored liquids are poured on drum heads while the drums are in play. The results were dramatic and spectacular, to say the least.

The first “Wow! These guys are amazing” moment came shortly after that when one of the trio threw a small ball halfway across the stage to another — who caught it in his mouth.

It turned out the ball contained paint. Two balls later and a work of art had been created.

The third Blue Man was equally good at catching balls with his mouth but had less luck artistically. Apparently none of the balls he caught contained any paint.

The drumbone — the BMG percussion instrument seen in countless YouTube videos — was an audience favorite in another segment. The trio earned enthusiastic applause as they played the PVC pipe instrument and demonstrated how changing the length of the pipe trombone-style changes the tone. (Parts lists and instructions are available online.)

Audience participation by a single member of the audience was the thing when the woman seated next to me was silently recruited by one of the Blue Men to join the trio for what turned out to be a dinner of Twinkies. She was a good sport, and the performers’ interaction with their dinner guest, the Twinkies, and various items on the table made the sketch one of comic highlights of the evening. (The video cameraman did an excellent job covering the action for the benefit of everyone who was seated too far back to have an optimal view of the performers.)

A male member of the audience got a similar shot at fame when he was taken up on stage and to apparently become a “human paintbrush” in another art segment. We’ll say “apparently” because the actual painting took place backstage — the audience watched via live video — and there would seem to be major liability issues involved in choosing an audience member at random, putting them in a jump suit, encasing their head in a helmet that completely covers their face, taking them backstage, sloshing paint on them, hanging them upside down with rope and then swinging them into a canvas. Twice.

Set aside your awareness of modern legalities and “human paintbrush” is another piece of entertaining theater.

Giant balls bounced around the Blaisdell Concert Hall during the "Ultimate Dance Party at the opening night performance of Blue Man Group Tuesday, June 18.  (Star-Advertiser photo by Jamm Aquino)

Giant balls bounced around the Blaisdell Concert Hall during the “Ultimate Dance Party at the opening night performance of Blue Man Group Tuesday, June 18. (Star-Advertiser photo by Jamm Aquino)

Either way, BMG is a marvelous blend of high-tech special effects and astute social commentary. For instance, the Blue Men encounter oversized electronic devices called GiPads — “Giant pads” as opposed to handheld iPads — and embark on a fascinating satirical trip through modern technology. Be prepared to read — quickly — the text that appears on each of the three giant devices, including a Twit Lit app that condenses Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” and other classics into hilarious synopses of 140 characters or less.

In another sketch, the trio explores popular “rock concert” moves — the fist pump, “raise the roof,” and “put your hands in the air and wave ‘em like you just don’t care,” to name three.

A third imaginative sketch relates the world view of two-dimensional avatars as they contemplate, via text messages, the complexity of living in a three-dimensional environment. “You’re creeping me out,” is the reply to a suggestion they meet for a “real” conversation.

There are also some fast-moving parodies of contemporary commercials.

Hawaii was recognized on opening night when one of the Blue Men popped up from behind a large percussion instrument wearing a brightly colored lei and the threesome played a few bars of “Aloha ‘Oe.”

The finale — a catchy piece of high-decibel dance music described as the “Ultimate Dance Party” — got most of the downstairs audience involved when giant illuminated balls were tossed out into the crowd and people were instructed to stand and “shake your booty.” The balls were tossed around the concert hall and paper streamers shot from canons as a litany of creative euphemisms for booty were flashed on screens. The party ended when the invisible emcee told the crowd the Blue Men wanted their balls back.

Yes, the “Ultimate Dance Party,” with the call for everyone to get up and dance, was the setup for a standing ovation. After working almost 90 minutes without intermission, the Blue Men and their supporting cast earned it.
———
John Berger has been a mainstay in the local entertainment scene for
more than 40 years. Contact him via email at jberger@staradvertiser.com.

Blue Man Group

Presented by Broadway in Hawaii

» Where: Blaisdell Concert Hall, 777 Ward Ave.
» When: 7:30 p.m. today and tomorrow, June 20; 8 p.m. Friday, June 21; 2 and 8 p.m Saturday, June 22; and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, June 23
» Cost: $40-$85; $10 discount for military for 6:30 p.m. Sunday show with promo code “USA” or ID at the box 0ffice
» Info: 800-745-3000 and www.ticketmaster.com

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