The Blue Man Group fiercely made its first mark on the world in the late ’80s, and since then, the performance troupe has undergone different changes and renaissances of sorts to become what it is today—a wildly entertaining force onstage.
The first showcase was in New York City: Called a “Funeral for the Eighties,” the three men who started the group saw it as a way to celebrate the end of what they saw as a destructive decade—and they did so by painting their faces blue, marching through Central Park and then burning a Rambo doll and a piece of the Berlin Wall.
From then on, the creators took the character and basically used it to disrupt and affect situations around them. They would show up randomly at restaurants or other sites to create happenings and to conjure moments—slightly different you could say to what the Blue Man Group is today. For one, they talked way back when, and now, the group does not.
The Blue Man Group is now owned by Cirque Du Soleil—they were bought in 2017—and they disrupt the performance world in a different way through their global and national tours, one of which will be stopping in The City of Brotherly Love next week.
For one of the Blue Men, Mike Brown, he was enthralled by the group almost a decade after they were formed, and he knew he had to join.
“I saw the show in ’97 on a college trip and I just absolutely fell in love with it,” he explains. “And it was something I wanted to do, it was a dream I wanted to strive for.”
Brown soon went on to work backstage for the Group, and when open auditions came around and a friend pushed him to try out, he went for it. The audition process was a series of tryouts: First drumming, then acting with your eyes, and eventually, putting the two together.
“It was definitely unique,” Brown says of the process. After undergoing a few more tests over three or four weeks, he made the group. But that was only the start of Brown’s training, which ultimately lasted about two months.
And what helped him make the group? As Brown cites, drumming skills were a plus, but not completely necessary. Actors have tried out and learned the music side of the performance and musicians have tried out and learned more of the acting portion of it. But what they all had in common was a passion for entertaining in a one-of-a-kind way.
“Any kind of musical experience helped, acting experience helps too. But this is such a unique thing that what can you really do to prepare for it? We have very specific traits,” Brown explains. Those traits span eye charisma, catching things in their mouths and ultimately, building a connection with audience members.
And Brown has been doing it all with the group for almost 20 years.
“The show has gone through several iterations since I joined in that we refresh or rewrite the show. That’s always fun to be around, because you’re at the forefront of learning it.. It’s a new experience, which is basically what Blue Man Group is, a constant in-the-moment experience,” Brown explains. “And when the show is brand new, it only creates that more. So this show in particular is a huge gift to perform because the only real voice I have in my mind is my own, not years of direction and other notes from other Blue Men.”
What can Philadelphians expect when the Blue Man Group hits the stage at The Miller?
“To see what those specifics are, you have to come and check it out for yourself,” Brown said. But then, he did clue in that spectators can always expect audience interaction, an assortment of musical accompaniments (ranging from Rock ‘N’ Roll to softer sounds and some beats in between) and the place most likely will be covered in paint, of course.
“In all honesty, this one in particular, this tour, it was a whole new experience. It was affected by COVID, so being able to bring it back is a wonderful gift from fate,” Brown explains.
The performer also goes into how the show is a collective encounter, from performers, to crew, to the band and those watching in their seats.
“We’re all a unit trying to create this show for everybody. Us being able to have a moment where we are sharing experiences, sharing jokes, sharing stories, and vibing out with each other…that’s something that can help you get into character and feel connected.”
With decades of performances under their belts and countless tours, there’s a reason everyone keeps coming back to the Blue Man Group.
“I think it speaks to some natural part that is in all of us—the childlike qualities that you’ve hidden throughout the years, and the Blue Men want to help you let those out. We all want to have fun, that connection is universal to everybody. I also think that the fact that the show doesn’t have a spoken word makes it more personal for [audiences],” Brown finishes. “That [also] makes it more mysterious, which then adds to its clout. It’s infamy. It’s hard to describe. But naturally, people are going to want to see it.”
Catch The Blue Man Group on stage at The Miller Theater, 250 S Broad St., on the Kimmel Cultural Campus from Dec. 27 to 31. Tickets and more information can be found at kimmelculturalcampus.org