Monday, Jan. 26, 2009 | 2 a.m.
IF YOU GO
What: Blue Man Group
When: 7 and 10 p.m., daily
Where: Blue Man Group Theatre at the Venetian
Admission: $71.50-$132, 414-9000, www.venetian.com
Running time: Almost two hours
Audience advisory: Very loud drums, strobe lights, splattery paint and other gooey substances near the stage, audience participation, toilet paper
Beyond the Sun
In the new Vegas, “blue” is synonymous with a curious trio of wordless humanoid aliens, whose playfully ingenious long-running show is nearing four years at the Venetian.
Exuberantly messy and thunderously noisy, Blue Man Group is a rarity amid on-Strip entertainments, hitting the sweet spot for grown-ups and kids alike.
Before the show begins, it’s amusing to watch the people seated in the first five rows as they wiggle into the clear plastic ponchos provided for them (it’s also funny to sit behind them with their comically pointy hoods). Announcements to the audience begin scrolling, stock-ticker style, and the increasingly silly instructions get everyone in a chummy mood.
Heads coated in cobalt blue greasepaint, clad in anonymous black jumpsuits, the Blue Men materialize, pounding out a pulse-quickening percussive overture on kettledrums. Then they start slopping primary-colored paint onto the uplit drums, creating geyserlike eruptions of red, yellow and blue. It’s a sensational splash of sound and vision.
Many classic silent artists come to mind when watching the Blue Man Group. Laurel & Hardy, for instance. Teletubbies. WALL-E.
Making gender, race and age indeterminate and inconsequential, their origin and blue complexion are never explained (I thought of Hindu deities, tree frogs, blue jays and Smurfs). Although they remain largely expressionless, they convey curiosity and wonder; although earless, they respond to sounds from the audience: applause, hoots, laughter.
Those aspiring to a career as a Blue Man should hone a peculiarly particular skill set: Requirements include a good sense of rhythm and movement, a gift for mime and improv, a taste for Cap’n Crunch and Twinkies, and a knack for catching popcorn and gum balls in your mouth.
Spawned in New York’s East Village arts scene of the late 1980s, the Blue Man Group has evolved into an international franchise, with a current world tour and resident shows in seven cities, including Berlin and Tokyo.
Like a science fair project with a blockbuster budget, Blue Man Group’s show is performance art, minimalist music and experimental theater made fun and accessible. Clearly the much-loved brainchild of smart, slyly subversive minds, the show references physics and metaphysics, but it’s never hard work for the audience. The onstage antics are mostly nonverbal — even preverbal. This Blue doesn’t get too deep.
Everything about this show is surprising, and I’ll keep it that way. But a few scenarios and set pieces stood out amid the wild blue goings-on: A rhapsody of amplified chewing and crunching provoked squeals of laughter from the kids in the crowd. And when the group clambered over and through the crowd, audience-surfing from seat to seat, they settled, hilariously, on a subject (was it because she was wearing a peacock-blue dress?), who was brought onstage for an extended sequence of fine dining, Blue Man-style.
Did I mention that Blue Man Group is loud? Suspended above the cartoonishly industrial set, backed by snaking coils and snarls of white tubes, a Day-Glo painted, seven-person band — with four more drummers! — rocks out on a cheery hybrid of Devo and Kraftwerk.
And before I forget, resign yourself to being involved in the act, no matter where you’re sitting (late arrivals receive extra-special treatment.) No matter how much you say you hate audience interaction, the hilariously exuberant finale — part ecstatic techno-rave and part preschool birthday party — will leave you grinning well after you’ve left the theater.