The Freedom Trail. The view from atop Bunker Hill Monument. “Blue Man Group”. All occupying a space in one’s back burner bucket list, for they’ll always be there, right? One could be forgiven for the perennial intention to take in all of the above. This is particularly true in the case of “Blue Man Group”, which originated in New York but was soon replicated here in Boston almost two decades ago, and has been playing here ever since. So it’s high time you got yourself to the Charles Playhouse to join the rest of humanity, including audiences from Las Vegas to Chicago, Orlando, Tokyo, Berlin, Toronto, and London. Creators Chris Wink, Phil Stanton and Matt Goldman first came up with the basic concept in 1987. Even they were surprised at its immediate reception, eventually winning them (in 1991 and 1992 respectively) off-Broadway recognition with both Obie and Lucille Lortel Awards. Its first incarnation entitled “Tubes” was a huge success as it took aim at the eighties, but, while it’s still tubular, dude, it has evolved, grown, and been updated so that true fans (and they are legion) are able to revisit each iteration as they keep the humor fresh, which is a fundamental reason for its continued success.
What keeps drawing theatergoers, whether for their first exposure or repeat visits, is its wise and witty amalgam of the very best of live and lively entertainment for (literally) all ages. At a recent performance, one little girl of about eight was in giggle heaven throughout the show, while a few seats away from her a guy about eight times her age was in side-splitting mode for the duration. It manages to appeal to such a broad range of ages, and tastes, by being so universally recognizable to virtually any audience member who’s ever been enthralled by the likes of “Cirque de Soleil”, improv, and most especially, mime. The key to its instantaneous acceptance is its uncanny melding of the familiar with the weird, all without a single spoken word by the three men in blue. Time and again, one is reminded of the great Harpo Marx and Lucille Ball at their finest. Mime is, after all, a form of theater with a very long history. It requires near perfect timing, coordination and fluidity in movement that continues to astonish, as they seamlessly transition from one skewering of some aspect of pop culture to another with deceptively natural ease.
While the three men in blue don’t utter a sound during the deadpan delivery, they are aided and abetted by occasional written and spoken elements that set the scene for their hijinks, none of which will be revealed here. They’re backed up by a trio of fine musicians, and a technical crew that numbers in the dozens, providing lots of high tech, from computers to phone apps to a PCP xylophone. You’ll find out for yourselves how the trio of blue men utilize percussion and paintballs, marshmallows and toilet paper, giant bouncing balls and noodles, Jello and twinkies. And what they do to Captain Crunch cereal is almost criminally funny and gross at the same time. In just two incredibly fast hours, these actors, drawn from a bench including Blue Man Captain Mike Brown, Gregory Balla, Bhurin Sead, Brian Tavener and Jason McLin, raise the concept of performance art to outrageous heights.
So it’s about that bucket list. Yes, these blue men have been delighting Bostonians and tourists in town since 1995, and threaten to remain here forever, but isn’t it high time you put yourselves at the mercy (perhaps again) of this truly unique (that is, by definition, one of a kind) experience? If you’ve only seen them on television, you haven’t really seen them. To be properly enthralled, you need to be there in person, giving in with every childlike bone in your body, to this ultimate immersion into live theater. The only thing you risk is terminal addiction to pure silliness, and potentially permanent damage to your funny bone.
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