A Blue Man speaks
Nov 17, 2012 (Menafn - St. Louis Post-Dispatch - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --The Blue Man Group, which at some early stage might just as well have evolved into the Purple Man Group or the Green Man Group, seems in retrospect to have picked its palette well.
Its shows, after all, seem to come from out of the blue.
Blue Men play drums that erupt in color. Blue Men guzzle dry cereal. Baffled Blue Men explore telephones; shiny, wordless Blue Men come right up to members of their audience and fix them in long, unnerving stares.
"It's very unsettling to have someone you don't know really look at you -- especially if he is blue and bald," concedes Russell Rinker, a veteran member of the troupe. "Honestly, we even have a hard time looking at each other.
"But the Blue Man is all about the eyes."
Indeed, that intent gaze is as much a part of the Blue Men's identity as their earless heads (created with a bald cap and grease paint) and their stylized, athletic movements. By now, they are familiar figures to people who have seen their shows in their own theaters around the world, on their arena-rock tours, or on TV. Rinker was one of the real Blue Men involved in the Tobias-as-Blue-Man story line on "Arrested Development," a plot they considered "a compliment."
But, Rinker said, the group still uses its distinctive look and sound (no speech, plenty of percussive music) to explore the same themes that intrigued founders Chris Wink, Matt Goldman and Phil Stanton when they founded the group 35 years ago.
"The Blue Man is the outsider experiencing human culture," Rinker explained. "He sees things that affect our society, but reacts to them differently."
Urban isolation has always been a big Blue Man concern, which certainly suited the avant-garde scene of Blue Man Group's birthplace, downtown New York. In 1991, the trio was honored with a special Obie citation. (Presumably it didn't fit any established categories.)
But unlike many performance artists, the trio didn't stay on the fringe. Like the Disney movies "Fantasia" and "Alice in Wonderland," its mind-bending appeal spoke to children and adults, stoners and straights, world-music lovers and fans of multimedia spectacle.
"The Blue Men," Rinker said, "are our own trip. And people get lost in our world."
The Blue Men themselves are as diverse as their audience, Rinker said. By now there are 50 or 60 performers trained to perform in the troupe's many concurrent shows. "You never really leave. You always come back," explained Brinker, who started with the Chicago troupe, spent five years with the Las Vegas troupe and returned for the tour that opens on Tuesday at the Fox.
He and his indigo colleagues come from all kinds of backgrounds, mainly in entertainment. They are mimes and actors, dancers and musicians.
Rinker, who grew up in rural Virginia, studied drama in college before embarking on a career at regional theaters, performing everything from Shakespeare to musicals. "My family still can't believe I can be quiet for so long," he said.
Playing a legitimate theater like the Fox poses challenges the Blue Men don't face on an arena tour or in one of their own houses. The Blue Man Group theater in Chicago, for example, offers seating options for the shy (the balcony, where even wandering Blue Men do not venture) and the bold (the first rows, also called the "poncho section" because of the helpful plastic garments that patrons find on their seats). Other companies are based in New York, Las Vegas, Orlando, Boston and Berlin.
"We can't make quite as much of a mess when the space is not our own," Rinker said. "But we still go out in the house and interact with the audience, whoever they are. Regardless of their background, people get something out of it.
"We hear kids giggling, and we hear adults laughing like children. But kids are still kind of living in that Blue Man world, maintaining their imagination, so adults who have forgotten how to do that are our real target.
"By the end of the show, they are standing up and dancing, forgetting the social rules they brought in with them. A Blue Man show transcends the barriers of language and culture and even age. That's the beauty of it."
BLUE MAN GROUP
When -- Tuesday through Dec. 2
Where -- Fox Theatre, 527 North Grand Boulevard
How much -- 15-75
More info -- 314-534-1111; fabulousfox.com
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