There is a current of childlike wonder that connects the characters of the Blue Man Group to the world around them. That inquisitive energy encourages human-to-human interaction, while helping the audience reconnect with their own sense of wonder and discovery, with their own sense of what is possible. It also represents a social commentary on the nature of music, the power of live performance and the ability to interpret a performance. It’s all done without dialogue accompanied by a kick-ass rock band.
The Blue Man Group returns to Jacksonville March 12-13 at the Times-Union Center’s Moran Theater before embarking on a world tour. Dan Carter is a veteran actor of stage and film who has performed as a Blue Man all over the world and is now touring the States with the national tour. His West End credits include Les Misérables, Taboo and We Will Rock You. Carter’s screen credits include Mike Nichols’ Closer and the Woody Allen film Cassandra’s Dream. “Performing with the Blue Man Group is the most exciting and the most unusual job that I’ve ever had. Honestly, it’s exhilarating. I get up in the morning and I can’t wait to be on stage that evening. One of the things I enjoy most about it is the audience participation and how we turn the conventional ideas of theatre on its head and we break the fourth wall and come out into the audience. People literally sit there with their mouths open and their eyes wide. They can’t believe we’re coming into this space that’s usually just reserved for the audience. That’s some of the most exciting stuff for me to actually interact with the audience.”
Founded by Phil Stanton, Chris Wink, and Matt Goldman, the Blue Man Group is comedy, theatre, rock concert and dance party all rolled into one. The Blue Man Group theatrical tour showcases classic Blue Man favorites, along with brand new content. Now approaching their 25th year of creativity, this artistic group is continually updating and refreshing Blue Man shows with new music, fresh stories, custom instruments and state-of-the-art technology. “It’s a way of using music and comedy and theatre to communicate with people about everyday objects or everyday occurrences in our lives. Part of the basis of the Blue Man character is we take these everyday objects and we turn them on their head. Some of the instruments that we use are really interesting. We take PVC pipe that you can buy at any Home Depot store but we use them in such an unusual way to make incredible music. Ultimately, we want to bring the people into the theatre and take them on this journey. The concept behind it is as much we are performing for an audience as much as the audience is a part of this show with us.”
The show is a visually stunning, multi-media experiences combined with a multi-sensory performance. The Blue Men are accompanied by a live band whose haunting tribal rhythms help drive the show to its unforgettable climax. “The show started as a sort of commentary on the contemporary music and art scene at the time. The original creators Chris, Matt and Phil really didn’t like what was going on and they had some sort of alternative ideas which they presented in this kind of satirical way through The Blue Man character and the character allows them to really separate. They become this anonymous person who is then able to make comment on these everyday objects easier than we would be able to do ourselves.”
Becoming a Blue Man requires a great deal of preparation and commitment to the character. The audition process involved a lot of interaction and improvisation to determine how their character would react in a given situation before advancing to the next phase into costume and perform pieces of the show. Training can take up to two months to learn the character, the individual personalities and the music. “It’s very difficult to see how a guy is going to do until he is actually on stage doing it. The process is very long and quite difficult but it’s completely worthwhile because we get so much out of it,” Carter says.
The transformation takes about two hours but it’s not as much getting into character as it is shedding the recognizable human features. “We don’t see it as much as putting on makeup or putting on a costume but more that we’re taking off this social mask, taking off our own personality and replacing it with this blue makeup which kind of makes up anonymous in some ways. People can watch this show and project their own emotions and thoughts onto us rather than being influenced by these human faces. It makes us much more neutral and allows the audiences to make up their own idea about the character.” Each character, while indistinguishable from each other physically, has a distinct energy. Fundamentally, all three share some core values, the most important of which is innocence. But each individual has their own traits. “One tries to control everything but never quite manages it because the other guys pull the rug out from under his feet. One guy is a trickster and plays jokes on the other two. The other guy is a bit more assertive and he’ll make these bold choices which the others have to catch up with,” says Carter. “It’s all about each experimenting and exploring the environment around them. The Blue Man is innately inquisitive. Every time we approach an object or an instrument of a person in the audience, we look at it as if it’s the first time we’ve seen it.” Be sure to catch The Blue Man Group March 12-13 at the Times-Union Center’s Moran Theatre.
More information at www.fscjartistseries.org.