Jill Weinlein, Chief Los Angeles Critic
Actress and talk show host Busy Philipps, along with Dancing with the Stars contestant Kate Flannery, and actor Jeremy Sisto were some of the celebrities walking on the “blue” carpet during Opening Night of BLUE MAN GROUP at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre. Just as they were hitting their mark in front of paparazzi, three bald BLUE men ( Mike Brown, Steven Wedt, Adam Zuick) took turns silently posing and upstaging guests.
The first time I saw Blue Man Group was in Boston during the 1990s. This collaborative show’s roots began when three close friends, Chris Wink, Matt Goldman, and Phil Stanton donned blue masks and led a street procession along Manhattan's Lower East Side in 1987. Receiving a lot of attention, they soon started performing an art show on small and larger stages. Now BLUE MAN GROUP performs in New York, Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas, Berlin and on tour worldwide with their premiere in Los Angeles for two weeks.
This new show SPEECHLESS, had me feeling as if these blue men were part of an outer space tribe taking over the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. Capturing two human musicians (Corky Gainsford who has been a BLUE MAN GROUP drummer for 18 years, primarily in Las Vegas, and Jerry Kops on strings and multi-instrumentalist with the group since 2006) to perform in the background, the show pushes the boundaries in color, bright lights, music, art, a little magic, and exciting human connection without a spoken word.
Inside the program is a yellow tear card that audiences use later in the show. On the card it states “The people are mailing codes to space. They are receiving letters from space, in the form of codes. These codes are being delivered all around us, on paths, making an invisible architecture.” This validates my out-of-this-world show.
New director Jenny Koons helps bring these codes to life with new music, fresh stories, custom instruments, and sensory-stimulating graphics.
It’s loud from the beginning when this blue trio enters onstage and pull a gong out of the bag to bang. With each strike, lights on the back wall sparkle along the chaotic floor to ceiling set by Jason Ardizzone-West. One soon realizes their senses will be challenged and at times overloaded by New York-based lighting designer Jen Schriever’s enhancement.
Every time the audience applauds, hoots and hollers, the blue performers onstage look out into the theatre bewildered. Without one word, they convey their intentions with their movements and eyes.
SPEECHLESS blends the best of the BLUE MAN GROUP spirit with paintballs, spin art, marshmallows, and running up and down the theatre aisles interacting with the audience. A cameraman follows close behind and displays part of the compelling show, and people in the audience on an onstage screen. Don’t be late to the show, because you may be called out with lights, music, and your enormous face displayed for all in the theatre to see.
Other favorite scenes include white plastic PVC experimental tubes that become unique and pleasing sounding instruments. Each strike ignites a flash of light, and television monitors display images and colors.
What didn’t work for me was the colorful strings scene towards the end of the show, and the rubber chicken scene. It appealed to younger audience members but seemed a little staged and sophomoric to adults. Appealing to families with children ages 5 and up. Be aware that strobe lights, atmospheric effects, and sounds may be too overstimulating for younger children.
SPEECHLESS is part music concert and part light show offering a kaleidoscope of color and sound that has the audience vibrating in their seats.
BLUE MAN GROUP is owned and operated by Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group, and at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre from September 24 – October 6, 2019.
The performance schedule is Tuesday through Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. & 8 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. & 6:30 p.m.
The L.A. Premiere of BLUE MAN GROUP has a limited number of tickets to winners of the Official Digital Lottery for $25 each. The lottery is hosted online by Broadway Direct.
Fans may enter the lottery by visiting www.HollywoodPantages.com/Lottery.
BLUE MAN GROUP has a running time of 90 minutes with no intermission.
Individual tickets for BLUE MAN GROUP start at $39. Prices are subject to change without notice.
For tickets or more information about the Los Angeles engagement of BLUE MAN GROUP, please visit the official website for Hollywood Pantages Theatre: www.HollywoodPantages.com/BlueManGroup.