The Blue Man Group performs in Tel Aviv.
(photo credit: SIVAN FARAG)
Growing up in New York City in the late 1980s and early ‘90s, it’s hard to forget childhood memories of riding in subway cars plastered in ads featuring extreme close- up mugshots of strange looking, bug-eyed men covered in shiny cobalt face paint staring at me and my fellow passengers, accompanied by the bold text: “BLUE MAN GROUP TUBES.” That was my first encounter with these pecu- liar “blue men” and up until last night, we managed to keep a safe distance from each other.
What was once considered a local avant-garde performance art trio, the group has clearly had enough time to hone their act to appeal to a wider audience, as was reflected in the all-ages crowd that came to the opening night that kicked off the Tel Aviv leg of their world tour at the Bronfman Auditorium on Monday night.
For some 90 minutes, the Blue Man Group wordlessly and thoroughly entertained the audience with booming percussion, audience participation and plenty of digital animation from the large LED screens behind the shiny blue faced men clad in all black.
As the show began, the lights went black in the auditorium, followed by an array of fast-flashing colorful lights around the center of the stage as the four-piece band, somewhat inconspicuously perched over the stage in a cage-like contraption, provided the booming soundtrack that would eventually introduce the trio of blue-painted performers. These blue showmen each had a set of drums, on a plat- form suspended over the stage. As the blue men struck the drums, colorful liquid poured onto said drums resulting in pleasant and mesmerizing splashes of color that accentuated the percussion blasts. The audience joyfully clapped along.
The performance is fun mix of mime, percussion and Cap’n Crunch. Seriously. They did a five-minute bit that involved them standing in front of the audience each holding oversized boxes of the sugary cereal while using the boxes and the sound of their chewing as a freestyle percussion performance. The audience ate it up.
Part of the group’s charm is their interactions with the audience. Throughout the show, the group would come down to the audience with portable cameras and project videos of the crowd back onto the stage as well as bringing up “random” audience members to participate in other bits of the show.
Another highlight was when the group showed off their creative percussion skills by working together on a self-made plastic pipe/ xylophone contraption that they used to play free-form sounds as well as popular tunes, including “Hava Nagila” – do I really need to add how the audience reacted to that one? The finale was a booming crescendo complete with an upbeat soundtrack, colorful flashing lights and animation from the LED screens behind the performers. The audience was then blanketed with colored streamers, smoke from smoke machines and several giant inflatable balls that were bounced around the generally austere performance hall.
These peculiar looking men, who were once local experimental performance artists on off- off Broadway venues, made it on a global scale, traversing not only geography but all cultural boundaries. The audience they had just finished entertaining proved that while they bounced the giant inflatable balls toward the stage and waded through layers of colored streamers as they exited the auditorium.
For the next three weeks, Israelis can get up close and personal with this beloved performance group.