Five things to know about Blue Man Group

CorrespondentSeptember 5, 2013 

  • Details

    What: The Blue Man Group U.S. National Tour

    When: 8 p.m. Friday; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday; 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday

    Where: Durham Performing Arts Center, 123 Vivian St., Durham

    Cost: $30-$100

    Inf: 919-680-2787 or www.dpacnc.com

The latest touring stage show to visit the Durham Performing Arts Center provides an artistic experience as ancient and profound as Theater itself: The chance to watch three mute bald men, covered in paint, bang on drums and blow stuff up.

The Blue Man Group, at DPAC through Sunday, has earned a global following with its high-energy, family-friendly take on musical theater. Established in the late 1980s in New York City, the show features the three silent Blue Men characters – curious visitors to our world, dressed identically in bald caps and blue paint – as they explore their new surroundings. Each Blue Man Group performance is built around live music, heavy on the percussion, with scripted bits offset by improvisational passages and audience interaction.

Blue Man Mike Brown, captain of the current performance team, recently spoke with The News & Observer and offered up some behind-the-scenes details about the current tour and the history of the show.

The Blue Man Group shows have evolved, as have the Blue Men themselves.

Previous Blue Man tours, dating back to 2003, have included themed presentations like “The Complex” tour and the “How to Be a Megastar Tour 2.0.” These tours reflected the experience of the Blue Man characters at the time, Brown said.

“‘The Complex’ was the Blue Men first infiltrating the tour world and the ‘Megastar’ tour was them exploring the world of rock stars and rock music,” Brown said. In recent years, the Blue Men have turned their attention to different matters. “The theme of this show is the way cultures interact with each other, and how we can learn from each other; how we can unify as a larger community.”

The touring show is bigger and more complex than the long-running theatrical shows.

“This show is the larger version of the theatrical shows that are in New York, Boston and Chicago,” Brown said. “It’s also larger in the way that the Las Vegas show is larger – in terms of venue and scale and the technical elements that can be used. It’s a huge theatrical performance that has moving lights, gigantic scenic elements, tons of stuff, plus all the performers’ gear – including my Xbox, which I have to have. That gets its own truck.”

There are more Blue Men than meet the eye.

While there are always just three Blue Men on stage, in any show in any city, there are actually dozens of performers who can in good conscience write “Blue Man” on their tax returns.

“We have four Blue Men on this tour, and we rotate throughout the week,” Brown said. “Right now, three of us know all three roles and one of our guys knows two of the roles.”

Each Blue Man has a specific character and role.

With the makeup and bald caps, the Blue Men are designed to look alike. But they each have distinctively separate personalities. “We call them Left, Center and Right,” Brown said. “That refers to stage left, center and right – basically their location on stage.

“Each has his own personality and each has his own quest or task throughout the night. But collectively, the Blue Men all have the same goal of connecting everybody and being connected.”

It’s really fun to be a Blue Man.

Brown, a Virginia native, has been performing as a Blue Man for more than a decade – in New York City, Boston, Chicago, Toronto, Berlin and even an extended run on a Norwegian Cruise Lines ship. “I’ve been doing this for a long time now, and still every show I completely freak out,” Brown said. “I can’t believe I’m doing it. Even when I just watch the show I’m amazed. This job is incredibly fun.”

The work also allows for a distinctive kind of self expression.

“Being a Blue Man has been compared to clowning,” Brown said. “You have a medium to express yourself and who you are as a person at a really basic, psychological level. Actors who play Blue Men, we all put a little bit of ourselves into the character. The Blue Men are an extension of ourselves.”

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