At the Pantages Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, Blue Man Group Speechless electrifies with futuristic music, physical shenanigans, and dynamic surprise
By John Lavitt
Photos by John Lavitt from the Pantages Opening &
Daniel Boczarski and Lindsey Best (Courtesy of Blue Man Group)
Hollywood, CA (The Hollywood Times) 09-26-19
On opening night of Blue Man Group Speechless at the Pantages Theatre, a modern-day Las Vegas showstopper burst out at an iconic Hollywood landmark. With a touch of shock and awe and a dollop of laughter and vaudeville, the new tour of Blue Man Group may have found a permanent vacation home at the Pantages for annual shows and celebrations. Indeed, as directed by Jenny Koons, it did not seem all that surprising how well Blue Man Group fit into a classic tradition.
After all, since the palatial Art Deco theater opened on June 4, 1930, becoming the last theatre built by renowned vaudeville impresario Alexander Pantages, it has been at the very heart of Hollywood’s performance offerings. From plays to musicals, concerts to events, the venue now operated by the Nederlander organization is the gold standard for a quality night out of high-end entertainment in Los Angeles.
It does seem surprising that Blue Man Group took so long to finally arrive in the city of lost angels. Since growing out of a collaboration between three close friends – Chris Wink, Matt Goldman and Phil Stanton – on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in 1987, Blue Man Group has become an international phenomenon. In 2017, Blue Man Group was purchased by Cirque du Soleil with the goal of taking it even further. According to the ebullient Blue Man Group website, the various incarnations of the show have visited 25 countries with 70 different Blue Men taking the stage along the way.
Before the onset of the show as the crowd excitedly filters into the theatre, the stage is empty, but alive.
Brimming and buzzing with lights, colors, and technological displays, the intrinsic setting of the Blue Men emits a subtle exhilaration long before the first Blue Man even appears. The machines and the technologies anticipate what is to come.
Amid the audience members arriving at their seats, the most excited are the kids, and they are the most fun to watch. Wearing jackets and ties, the boys strut and saunter forward with an air of undeniable happiness. In dresses and formal pants, the girls hop and skip to their seats, bounding with delight. The kids are super-duper excited, and the honesty of their elation is downright contagious. They can’t wait for what is to come.
However, I’m not sure if I will be able to justify in words what actually came. With a sense of otherworldly meets sublime, the Blue Man Group fosters a rare affectation throughout their performance that is hard to describe without reducing the impact. Overall, the nonsensical “weirdness” of the show thrives side-by-side with an implied internal logic expressed between three Blue Men on and off the stage. The meaning behind what they do perambulates between the shtick of vaudeville and whispers of a Matrix-like apocalypse.
Blue Man Group offers a strange and intoxicating exploration of social dynamics to the inquiring mind. Beyond such inquiries, however, there is a technological circus and the powerful rhythmic beatings of the drums. At times, as the drums take over, a viewer may even drift in and out of consciousness as the dream of the moment descends into an actual dream. Without falling asleep, what is seen with closed eyes is more than what may actually be present. Such blissful transcendence is the very soul of the experience.
Beyond the soul, however, there is the heart, and the beating heart of a Blue Man Group performance are the kids. Since my wife had to work, I brought my mother-in-law to the show, and she wholeheartedly agreed with this observation. Sitting a row behind us, a little boy sounded like Peter Pan on his first adventure. Expressing joy and amazement to his mom at every beat, his vibrant experience of Blue Man Group is the key to their ongoing success. Such an otherworldly magic in today’s world that lights up the eyes of a child is worth every penny spent. It cannot be forgotten.