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Saturday, September 28, 2019

F3Stage Review: Blue Man Group indeed is & will leave you Speechless--but is that good or bad?

Film Flam Flummox

Given what a familiar presence they've become in various forms of media, whether in their long-running, world-spanning live stage productions or on television in various shows and commercials, it's more than a bit surprising that the silent, blue, bald trio of alien performers known as Blue Man Group has never had one of its touring shows play in Los Angeles. And so what better way than to make their overdue, official SoCal splash than to kick off their latest sensory, slapstick spectacle, the aptly named Speechless Tour--and, to go for the easy, punny pull-quote, it definitely will leave viewers speechless, but whether or not that's a good thing is ultimately a simple matter of taste.

For the unitiated, the basic conceit of Blue Man Group is that they are three nameless, mute, almost indistinguishable bald, blue beings of presumably alien origin (played alternately by the quartet of Meridian, Mike Brown, Steven Wendt, and Adam Zuick) who spend the next ninety minutes or so creating music (composed by Andrew Schneider and Jeff Turlik) out of various do-it-yourself percussion instruments crafted out of PVC piping and other objects in their sleek industrial lab and silently, quizzically observing human behavior. The latter, of course, is a mere excuse for the Blue Men to venture into the audience with cameras and other instruments, staring with blank curiosity while invading patrons' personal space, and occasionally bringing a few (un?-)lucky viewers on to the stage for comic bits. And so goes the entire evening, with broad, deadpan comic skits, both with or without audience participation; and propulsive, percussive music set to colorful light shows. It's all very diverting to say the least, thanks to director Jenny Koons's brisk pacing and the real stars of the show, set designer Jason Ardizzone-West, lighting designer Jen Schreiver, and sound designer Crest Factor. But it is, to my personal taste, all a bit too undemanding to a fault. Being not-quite performance art, not-quite theater, not-quite concert, not-quite satire, but cranked-all-the-way-up flashiness and glitz (not for nothing has a production been a Vegas mainstay for nearly two decades), once the initial novelty wears off, the lack of "there" there underneath wears a bit thin after a while.

That all being said, even if not attuned to my tastes, Speechless speaks a lot as far as to explaining just why Blue Man Group has become the multimedia institution it now is. It plays far and wide in just about any demographic spectrum. It's all-ages friendly, so kids and seniors and all points in between can enjoy; and being driven solely through the force of its visuals and wordless melodies, its oddball charms require no translation. So to the many audiences that easily and understandably succumb to the siren spell, Speechless will indeed leave them so, out of awe. But to others such as myself, speechless is also the reaction, but with an admittedly amused but altogether indifferent shrug.

Blue Man Group with actress Busy Philipps
on the opening night blue carpet at the Pantages Theatre
on September 26, 2019
(photo by Michael Dequina)

Blue Man Group Speechless Tour is now playing at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood through Sunday, October 6; the touring company then moves on to other cities across North America through 2020.

(Special thanks to Hollywood Pantages Theatre)

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