The Blue Man Group opened up their short run last night at the Kentucky Center to an enormous, eager, and eclectic crowd. I tagged along with next-to-no idea what I could expect. All I had were some vague notions of drumming and paint, as well as the obligatory Arrested Development references. What I saw is still difficult to tell. Though surely, the Blue Man Group put on an intriguingly unique and engaging show that is sort of beautiful in its indescribability.
How do I describe what I saw? The show landed somewhere in the middle between performance art, a vaudevillian show, a magic show, a live cartoon and a circus. Three silent blue-painted men, led the audience through drumming on pipes, creating live paintings, and the various stages of what they called a rock show. The three blue men had such an innocent, curious, almost alien personality as they performed adeptly then grew confused by the seemingly normal. The show hit its mark when it focused on either of these two sides.
Basic, primal percussion will always entertain me. The inventive ways they exhibited their skill demanded attention as they deftly used all manner of plumbing and drums to create vibrant, infectious music. The other side of their personas found them picking an audience member with which to have some sort of date. Without a doubt it was the most awkward audience participation I have seen, especially one that involved Twinkies. But it was still so completely charming; I couldn't keep the smile from my face.
The Blue Man Group that performed last night is only one of many touring and stable groups that were formed by the originators over the past couple decades. I have a natural suspicion for this type of franchised art. You expect something unique about the name and reputation that appears with three blue-painted men, and it can seem a tad disappointing when it plays like a reproduction rather than a spontaneous event. This lack of authenticity appeared several times during the show. Several events sprang from the audience or through some audience participation that was clearly staged, and instead of either making it goofy enough for self-deprecation or making it good enough to seem realistic, the show merely expected the audience to accept a shaky ruse. The show gave an utterly entertaining time; these glimpses behind the curtain only jarred it away from perfection.
Some part of me did cynically search for a theme among all the sheer entertainment. It played so closely to performance art that I couldn't help but search for meaning or depth. I decided to ditch this miring, negative mind frame when I remembered the quote that they displayed on the giant screen before the performance began. It was a quote from the International Diplomacy Guidebook on how to form connections with strangers. Part of it read, "Ultimately the best way to forge a lasting friendship is to create something together." This tied much of the show together. Their child-like audience involvement was an extension of the whole show, asking everyone to create the night for themselves, bonding the performers with the audience and the audience with each other.
While I expect most good art to challenge the viewer, asking to meet it halfway, there must exist some middle ground that has an optimistic, all-inclusive aim toward basic entertainment. As the show ended in a raging, bombastic eruption of a dance party, I couldn't help but grin widely and be glad that I was able to see such sights. The audience continually ate it up with relish, congratulating every turn and reveling in their own involvement. Whether or not there a central theme holds it together, forming a night of substance, I cannot deny that it was just so much fun.
The Blue Man Group will perform April 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, and 15th. Tickets begin at $22.75 and can be purchased at kentuckycenter.org or by calling the box office at 1-800-775-7777.
Photos: Courtesy of Ryan Armbrust