Paul Kolnik

When one thinks of live avant-garde or performance art, an image of serious looking, eccentrically dressed yuppies comes to mind. While they are in the same genre,  no stuffiness exists in the Blue Man Group, who brought the Fox Theater to life on Jan. 15.

Blue Man Group, an act fronted by the three titular cobalt Blue Men, is exactly as advertised. Flashing lights, ground-shaking music, and enough humor to rival a comedy club make the performance one of the most unique to grace the stage. The trio marry conventional visual and auditory art to innovative uses of technology. In their most well-known act, they take mundane household objects like PVC pipes and fashion them into elaborate instruments. What ensues is spectacular.

From the get-go, the performance engages and energizes the audience, and by the time the curtain comes up and the neon paints are flying off the drumheads, there is an electric feeling sparking through the air.

At the Fox, a high level of audience involvement was present throughout the entire show. The performers often ventured into the crowd, interacting with viewers on a personal level. The show got people out of their seats much of the time, with projectors telling them to get up and dance or flail their arms. This in turn made patrons feel connected to the performance.

Unlike most experimental art, Blue Man Group appeals to all ages, contrasting slap stick styled humor with perpetually stoic faces that kept children in the audiences laughing. Many of the acts were akin to those of circus clowns, using such comic tools as Captain Crunch cereal, regurgitated twinkies and Jell-O. And it wasn’t just the humor that appealed to the audience; the group seemed to be able to do the impossible, with one of them being able to catch up to twenty marshmallows in his mouth at a time.

Although often simple in concept, most of the Blue Man Group’s acts have themes that ridicule society, particularly an addiction to technology, information overload and an obsession with commercialism. This idea is extremely clear in the act where three “GiPads” (Giant iPads) are brought on stage, simultaneously flashing three different sets of information consisting of pop culture, facts about the internet and advertisements. Additionally, the group toys with the idea of alienation, not only with their own bizarre looks and uncomfortable stares, but also by always having a least one member of the group purposely be something different or do something wrong. The performance also poked fun at itself, once even mocking the idea of conceptual art.

What was truly spectacular about the Blue Man Group was their incredible timing and synchronization. Not only were the performers completely in sync almost the entire show, but the performance itself merged the ideas of performance and visual technology.

However, a slightly bothersome aspect of the show was the fact that the “audience members” who were brought on stage were clearly planted in the crowd beforehand. These selected people seemed to know their way around both the stage and the act a little too well when they were supposed to be following along with the group. Moreover, each person who was selected was a bit over the top to say the least. They were unafraid to wave at the camera and extremely confident in their actions. Additionally, one of the acts, supposedly performed “live backstage,” was clearly not actually happening, as it was relatively dangerous and would no doubt require the volunteer to sign a waiver of some sort. Although this was all part of the experience and made to look as real as possible, it was a shame for many of the audience members who eagerly waved their arms to be chosen, but to no avail.

Nevertheless, the Blue Man Group was a real spectacle, and is worth seeing at least once. Potential viewers should especially consider attending from Friday, Jan. 18, to Sunday, Jan. 20, as the exclusive orchestra pit “Beanbag Seats” is being offered at the Fox to a limited amount of people who purchase tickets on the day of the show (check the website for further details).

While making weekend plans be sure to break out the Captain Crunch, Twinkies, and Jell-O. It’s time to see the show.