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Blue Man Group paints the town blue with 2 shows at the Keith-Albee

Nov. 07, 2013 @ 01:33 PM

Here in Marshall University country, in a city awash in a sea of green, it's time to hit the pause button and make way for the big blue.

No worries, Thundering Herd fans, the University of Kentucky Wildcats are not making a border crossing, but for two nights the city will be under siege and spell of the mysterious and refreshingly odd music makers known as Blue Man Group.

The non-talking, mind-blowing percussionists and actors truck in their massive video, paint and music-splashed multi-media production to the historic Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center as part of the Marshall Artists Series.

Cabell Huntington Hospital presents the Blue Man Group for two performances at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, Nov. 12-13. Tickets for the hour-and-a-half long interactive show are $65.06/$56.50/$51.15 at Marshall Artists Series Box Office or call 304-696-6656.

As part of the Blue Man Group's national tour that has been out since September 2010, there will be three tractor trailer loads full of equipment (everything from an LED curtain and high-resolution screen) crammed into the historic theater for this new show that features imaginative technology and some classic Blue Man bits.

Virginia native Mike Brown, a 2001 Old Dominion University graduate who has been with Blue Man Group for more than a decade said it's the best of times for the show as technology keeps pushing the edge further.

"The Blue Man character is always interested in exploring the forefront of technology and science and he is really investigating the things that we use today in new ways," said Brown, who has performed as a Blue Man in New York City, Boston, Chicago, Toronto, Berlin, Oberhausen and on Norwegian Cruise Lines. "Back in the day the show used to be more dark and mysterious and people didn't know who it was. Now that it's more well known its brighter and more wow, and when people see it, it is more of a spectacular event and technology plays into that. Not only do we use it in the show and to create the show but we also interact with technology in the show. The Blue Man welcomes a lot of modern day technology he just can turn it on its head and make it unique to him."

Over the years the show -- not unlike "Stomp," in that it was a street-made interactive that now has an international brand and cult following -- has morphed with the times and the music, but has always stayed true to its roots with its international men of mystery donning bald caps and their uniform blue makeup and communication through music and gestures.

Blue Man Group was first birthed in a New York City club as a percussive, performance-art-fueled '80s music tribute back in 1987 and then honed in public places such as Central Park, the Performing Garage, Dixon Place and P.S. 122, by two childhood friends Chris Wink and Matt Goldman from Kansas, and Wink's college buddy, Phil Stanton, who is originally from Georgia.

Again similar to "Stomp" in its use of homemade percussion, Blue Man Group also blends up comedy, art and multi-media in its theatrical shows and concerts that constantly push the edge of interaction and experimental music.

By the early 1990s, it was winning awards Off-Broadway. By 1996 the group was appearing on Jay Leno with its newly created experimental instruments created from tubes and pipes and other everyday object creations.

In the years since, Blue Man Group has collaborated with everyone from Moby, to guests vocalists such as Tracy Bonham, Dave Matthews, Gavin Rossdale and Venus Hum, and has toured its popular shows such as "How to Be A Megastar 2.0," all over the world.

Currently, there are about 100 Blue Men out performing either on tours and even the Norwegian Cruise Line ship Epic, as well as at shows in such cities as New York, Boston, Orlando, Las Vegas, Berlin, German and Sydney, Australia.

Brown, who first saw the show in 1997, said when he graduated college in 2001 he moved to New York to try and be a part of the show since he was a drummer and an actor. He scored a backstage crew gig and then after six months went to an open call audition and scored a coveted spot as one of the few, the proud, the blue.

There are always four Blue Men (three on stage and one always rotating) touring with each show that also features a four man live band and all of them exploring the perpetual toy box of unique instruments including the Chapman stick, the drumbone, the Cimbalom, paint drums, drum walls, the tubulum and of course, lots of PVC pipe gone wild.

"Music is one of those universal languages and we have a live band of four people and the four characters themselves are themselves a band and that is part of the energy of creating the Blue Man or summoning them, it is a real tribal thing," Brown said. "You feel it in your heart when they are playing music."

Although as an actor and a drummer, Brown was tailormade to be a Blue Man, he said everyone has their "unique adventure into the company."

"Some guys are mainly actors with no musical experience or vice versa," Brown said. "One of the cool things about being a Blue Man is that you learn this character who is unique and weird to play and you also bring a little bit of yourself and your vibe to the character to bring him more to life. Becoming a Blue Man is two-fold of stripping away the layers of yourself for your inner self to come out and then also about putting on another layer of what magnifies who you are and what you are in a real instructional way like how you can be yourself."

Some of that re-examination happens symbolically and comedically as the Blue Men constantly take everyday objects and use them in unorthodox ways.

"One of the things Blue Man characters do is to take the objects people use in their everyday environment and turn them on their heads. We like to make musical instruments out of what you would think of as an everyday object and we also like to expand that in terms of science and technology and comedy in a way," Brown said. "It's like whoa, 'I can't believe they just did with an iPhone or with food that we eat.' You can definitely expect the Blue Man Group to throw you for a loop. We have some really unique instruments, and some that are unique to this show in particular."

Brown said he loves this tour as the large-scale yet intimate show is connecting people in cities across the world to the group and to each other as they try and describe their experience.

"This show is a multiple media live event that is really unlike anything anyone has seen, and that is one of our awesome marketing uniquenesses is when people see the show they can't hardly tell you what they saw but they know that it was really interesting," Brown said. "So it really spread word of mouth and people are like 'you have got to see if for yourself.' It is all about connecting people in a larger community so when people come to the show they shouldn't expect the average theater experience of just sitting and watching a story unfold. It is really in your face interaction with the Blue Men breaking down these barriers that people have between each other and themselves and it really is about having a fun and unique experience."



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