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Blue Man Group Canvas North America on Latest Tour

by Rich and Laura Lynch

Blue Man Group brought their North American Tour to the Tennessee Performing Arts Center for a Tuesday, February 11, 2020 opening night performance that lifted the curtain on an 8-show stand scheduled to run through the weekend in Nashville. The swift 85 minute set with no intermission found the androgynous trio that comprises the colorful troupe up to many new tricks even as old favorites made an appearance during an engaging, interactive and crowd-pleasing presentation.

Blue Man Group Canvas North America on Latest Tour

Blue Man Group, now part of the Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group since 2017, launched their new tour in September at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles, after developing the production at the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville, AR. Under the helm of visionary director Jenny Koons, in her first-time collaboration with Blue Man Group, the world-renowned bald and blue threesome have embarked on a fresh journey of discovery through this tour - the result of 27+ years spent observing humanity. The current production features new and original compositions, invented instruments and unexpected situations alongside iconic Blue Man Group moments based in joy, art, music, comedy, social commentary and profound absurdity.

"It's Blue Man Group's continued commitment to push boundaries, and think bigger and bolder with every new exploration, that excites me most about this opportunity, and I'm thrilled to join the Blue Man Group family to undertake this new show," said Jenny Koons, Director of the Blue Man Group North American Tour, adding that it "will feature material that fosters communal moments, debut the evolution of our tube-based instruments to support all new music, and include large-scale audience participation. It is my hope that this show will deliver on its name and continue Blue Man Group's legacy to transcend words and inspire audiences through non-verbal connections."

In a baffling coincidence the first and only previous time that we had the privilege and honor of seeing the Blue Man Group was in their home base of New York City exactly eight years ago to the date of the Nashville premier. On that night, our first exposure to the bizarre strangeness of the production coupled with being much closer to the action was a very different experience. Blue Man Group even pulled Rich out of his chair that night to help throw the power and black-out the building for a few extra moments of up close and personal blue-based creepiness.

This time around we were seated in the second row of the balcony at the luxurious Andrew Jackson Theater. This vantage point enabled us to observe the ambitious undertaking with no concern of being chosen to participate in the proceedings. The first thing that struck us was the elaborate and technologically complex stage set-up and multi-tiered structure that served as a backdrop and centerpiece for the evening's performance.

Blue Man Group Canvas North America on Latest Tour
A look at the Blue Man Group elaborate new stage.

There are really no words to describe the latest Blue Man Group production. But, it is important to note that behind the make-up and the undercurrent of commentary on the human condition that Blue Man Group are first and foremost acclaimed musical pioneers who paved the way for much of today's techno and EDM superstars. They accomplished this task through intense rhythmic drumming while incorporating almost otherworldly instrumentation with the help of PVC piping that continue to evolve to glorious new heights on this tour. The plastic tools of their trade were larger and lit up and at times it took all three men cooperating together to make them work.

Newer still was a set of mechanical dulcimer style hand-cranked pieces of equipment that seemed to incorporate elements of guitar and bass. Without getting up close it was hard to discern exactly how they worked but the sound of the three working in unison was out of this world as expected. The musical portions of the act proved that the Blue Men are adept at creating music on the fly within the format of a planned out show. Every Blue Man Group event will be unique as the music is created with some spontaneity baked in to the effort. Audience participation will also differ from night to night as the men make several forays into the crowd with cameras and microphones. In the second row one Blue Man found some green M&M's as he rifled through an unsuspecting fan's purse for all to see projected onto the stage's many monitors.

A winning highlight of the night was the Group's patented marshmallow and paintball toss that resulted in canvas art and sculptures created on the spot in real time. If we had one criticism it would be that much of the depth of the show has been subjugated in order to provide an almost "best of" adaptation that presented many of the Blue Man Group's top pieces in almost medley type format. Some routines began only to fade away in ambiguous incompleteness. Take for example the lengths the guys went to set up a human target in the audience with the threat of a water balloon attack only to end the skit when some later-comers arrived to alarming fanfare. In some ways it felt like a reintroduction of their art as they have been absorbed under the umbrella of a much larger organization in the form of Cirque du Soleil - and maybe that's the point and purpose of this national outing.

"By building on the original DNA of Blue Man Group, Speechless (and subsequent outings) will forge a path for future generations of the Blue Man tribe to explore," said Diane Quinn, Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group's Chief Creative Officer. "To further challenge themes of invention, curiosity and human connection, we are excited to work with our new director, Jenny Koons, whose expertise in dissolving spatial boundaries and diverse background in theater and activism, set the stage for us to deliver a transformative Blue Man Group experience."

The Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC) is a private, non-profit organization dedicated to providing and supporting the presentation of the performing arts to the citizens of Tennessee. TPAC is located in the James K. Polk Cultural Center at 505 Deaderick Street in downtown Nashville. It has multiple venues that host a wide range of artists and activities such as Blue Man Group. Up-coming events include Jesus Christ Superstar, The Color Purple, Escape to Margaritaville, The Donna Summer Musical and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Volunteer State residents will be able to catch the Blue Man Group on tour February 17 to February 18 at Chattanooga's Tivoli Theater before a return in the spring to Knoxville's Tennessee Theater from April 21 to April 23.

Blue Man Group Canvas North America on Latest Tour
It was a triumphant opening night for Blue Man Group in Nashville.

Related Links: For more information on BLUE MAN GROUP and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links -- Blue Man Group | TPAC

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