The one big question you will ask yourself before or after you have seen the Blue Man Group performance is simple: What the heck is a Blue Man?
The answer is not as easy as the question. Bald, blue, mute, drum crazy, inquisitive, unpredictable, playful, rocking, romantic, artistic, harmless, mysterious … there are many ways you can describe one, but no single way to get a grasp on a character that has been entertaining audiences since 1988. Our stretch to encapsulate him at The Weekender? A musical humanoid dog, probing the boundaries of what is possible in his world and happy to entertain. One thing that is true in Japan, whatever the Blue Men are, they’re popular.
“In Tokyo, people have a much bigger reaction when they find out that I am a Blue Man,” says Gareth Hinsley, who has been a Blue Man for four years. Hinsley says that most people here are fascinated and are likely to reply with a “Really! Wow!” when they find out.
The UK actor was not a drummer originally, but trained for the show for four months after first going for a three-day audition in London and then flying to New York to get the job. He has since travelled with the show to Chicago, Moscow and Sweden, and says that in Japan, audiences are willing to suspend their disbelief to a greater to degree and really question whether what is happening on stage — such as a running gag with a vacuum cleaner in one scene — is on purpose or a mistake, which intensifies the fun for the actors. As Hinsley points out, room for mistakes are built into the show, and something that the Blue Men take advantage of. With some of the messy play that goes on and the interaction with the audience, it is inevitable that something unexpected will happen that allows the actors to explore a bit of improv within their characters.
And that is not just as a Blue Man, but the particular Blue Man that the individual actor is. The three, who each usually remain oriented in the same order on the stage — left, center, right — are each distinctly different. Hinsley says the Right Blue is “more of an adrenaline junkie who likes to try things for the rush of it.” Mr. Left, who does the spin painting in the start, is a bit more considered, and the Blue Man in the center is the balance in between them who worries about holding the whole project together.
Despite being mute, Hinsley says “the amount of communication that we are able to achieve with each other is incredible.” At one point the Blue Men enter the audience on an extended hunt for a female volunteer to participate in a piece on stage. They scout several possibilities and discuss at length — nonverbally of course — about which one has the right spirit for the gags.
Phil Stanton, Chris Wink, and Matt Goldman, the three originators of the group, are still involved and creating new material. The Tokyo show probably features some of the newest work the group is doing, such as the light suits in a musical number near the end. Other parts are specific to Japan, such as the manga kissaten Internet cafe seen in a video section called “Rods and Cones”.
Hinsley says that one of the perks of the show is that after he takes his make-up off, he can blend right in to the public world without being recognized. So if you take the kids to enjoy this bit of inspired weirdness in Azabu Juban for Christmas, watch out on the ride home. That fellow gaijin in the same subway car as you just might be another Blue Man.
Event: ”Blue Man Group in Tokyo”
Venue: Roppongi Blue Man Theatre
(Azabu Juban Station)
Hours: 7 pm Wed.-Fri., 1 & 5:30 pm Sat.,
12 noon & 4:30 pm Sun.
Tickets: “Poncho”seat (Front 6 rows with a plastic poncho) ¥8,500, “S” seat ¥7,500, Students: ¥6,500, 4-12 year-old children ¥5,000
More info: Schedule and map at www.blueman.jp or call (03) 5414-3255 for more information