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By John Quinn
Strolling down the aisle of the Fisher Theatre you are confronted with a stage-filling screen -suitably blue – bearing a quote from the International Diplomacy Handbook. “Ultimately, the best way to forge a friendship is to create something together … When you create something with others, you build a connection that lasts a lifetime.” Considering the tattered state of world affairs, one would think policy wonks might make better use of their manual. But it makes a suitable introduction to the night’s festivities. Collaboration with “Blue Man Group” makes you want them at the top of your BFF list.
“Blue Man Group” has toured previously with “How to be a Megastar,” an arena rock show, but this is the phenomenon’s first theatrical tour. It features some things old, some things new, but at its core it’s all true blue. Under the direction of Marcus Miller, the troupe shares a unique artistic expression
How to describe “Blue Man Group?” Three performers, bald and blue, are at the center of a visually stunning, multi-media party, backed by four rock musicians and a proscenium-sized LED screen. The show is theatrical but outside the confines of traditional narration, stimulating the senses without overwhelming them. There is a strong theme of Alienation in the Information Age, as social networking replaces personal interaction. “Blue Man Group” aims to change that, and invites us to unite in a madcap celebration of the human spirit.
There’s a certain amount of anonymity among the players. There are three actors, all “Blue Man.” To bring them out from under the makeup, the trio consists of Brian Tavener, Kalen Allmandinger and Kirk Massey. While each has experience in prior productions, the chemistry they enjoy onstage goes beyond mere comfort with the material. Their performances make traditional mime look easy. Completely deadpan, they convey meaning not only without voice, but without expression. Between the greasepaint and the blank expressions, relieved only by the startling whites of their eyes, it would not be hard to imagine that we’re been invaded by aliens. But these aliens can communicate – and how!
The humor is distinctively off-the-wall and runs the scale from sophisticated wit to gags that will thrill 14-year-old boys. It is accompanied by a surprisingly unified musical score, under the direction of Julian Cassanetti. The music is loud, proud and visceral. The curtain of light behind the performers, augmented with movable screens of all sizes, provides an ever-changing wash of intense color and visual images. But what an audience will remember, while strolling up the aisle of the Fisher – in a daze – is the primal engagement of the heavy, insistent, hypnotizing beat of percussion. Drums big and small, homage to PVC plumbing fixtures, even what might be the world’s first percussion organ, “Blue Man Group” finds rhythm everywhere.
At its heart, “Blue Man Group” is an experiment in communication. What are the fundamentals that link individuals? They’re not to be found in the ever-expanding field of telecommunications. Look instead to the basics: human contact, gesture and music. Artists and audiences assemble and beautiful things happen; can’t we ask our diplomats to do likewise?
‘Blue Man Group’
Fisher Theatre, 3011 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit. Tuesday-Sunday through May 13. 100 minutes. $39-89. 313-872-1000. http://www.BroadwayInDetroit.com