Blue Man Group gives Las Vegas its first large-scale introduction to that nebulous genre called “performance art.” If the designation “performance art” confuses you, relax—it won’t hurt a bit. Blue Man Group serves up a stunning show that all kinds of folks ages 8–80 can appreciate.
The three blue men are just that—blue—and bald and mute. Wearing black clothing and skullcaps slathered with bright-blue greasepaint, their fast-paced show uses music (mostly percussion) and multimedia effects to make light of contemporary art and life in the information age. The Vegas act is just one expression of a franchise that started with three friends in New York’s East Village. Now you can catch their zany, wacky, smart stuff in New York, Boston, Orlando, Chicago, Berlin, and Toronto.
The Las Vegas Blue Man Group show was overhauled in 2015, removing the clunky “Showbot” segment and its accompanying industrial robots and replacing them with giant insect puppets created by Michael Curry. Two new additions include flying eyeball drones and high-tech video projection mapping in the preshow. The current production shares many elements with the Orlando version—including “GiPad” giant computer tablets and “2.5-D” neon animated characters—but enhances them with upgraded LED lighting effects and adds a couple of new tricks, such as kettle drums that launch smoke rings over the audience.
Funny, sometimes poignant, and always compelling, Blue Man Group hooks the audience even before the show begins with digital messages that ultimately spin performers and audience alike into a mutual act of joyous complicity. The trio pounds out vital, visceral tribal rhythms on complex instruments (made of PVC pipes) and makes seemingly spontaneous eruptions of visual art rendered with marshmallows and a mysterious goo. Their weekly supplies include 60 Twinkies, 996 marshmallows, and 9.5 gallons of paint. If all this sounds silly, it is, but it’s also strangely thought-provoking about such various topics as the value of modern art, DNA, the way rock music moves you, and how we are all connected. (Hint: It’s not the Internet.)
Audience participation completes the Blue Man experience. The blue men often bring audience members onstage. And a lot of folks can’t help standing up to dance—and laugh. Most fun of all is the finale, when the entire audience bats around illuminated exercise balls. Magicians for the creative spirit that resides in us all, Blue Man Group makes everyone a coconspirator in a culminating joyous explosion. In July of 2017, the Blue Man Group franchise was acquired by Cirque du Soleil. We look forward to seeing the fruits of that combination.
This show is decidedly different and requires an open mind to be appreciated. It also helps to be a little loose because everybody gets sucked into the production and leaves the theater a little bit lighter in spirit, judging by the rousing standing ovations. If you don’t want to be pulled onstage to become a part of the improvisation, don’t sit in the first half-dozen or so rows.
The Luxor is home of the Blue Man Group. For showtimes and tickets, visit their website.
Photo credits: By Galeria de Léo Pinheiro – Picasa [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons