Blue Man Group celebrates 20 years

Blue Man Group is celebrating 20 years of performing in Chicago this month with their usual high-energy and colorful performance that has drawn audiences nationwide to see the famous group. Blue Man Group Chicago hosted a college press event on Thursday, Oct. 5.

Blue Man Group, originally started in Manhattan in 1991, is now a permanent staple in five cities across the United States and even has a world tour. The group is rightfully named the “Blue Man Group,” as the entire show is performed by three bald men whose skin is painted blue. Since being started over 26 years ago, Blue Man Group has become a staple in the performing arts and comedy scenes worldwide.

Briar Street Theatre is only a short walk from the Belmont stop, and the inside of the venue is just as interesting and unique as the performers inside. The walls are lined with pipes and streamers, welcoming the audience into the oddness that can only come from the blue men. The inside of the theater looks the same as the lobby, except for two small screens on either side of the stage that give instructions to the audience to “tell Emma you hope her headache goes away” and other quirky things to keep people engaged.

Blue Man Group celebrates 20 years in Chicago. On Oct. 5, Blue Man Group welcomed the college press outlets to the Briar Street Theatre for another colorful show. (Photo courtesy of Lindsey Best)

 The performance starts off on a colorful foot, with the three men being mesmerized by paint and music, entrancing the audience by only putting light on the small part of the stage that they inhabit. They go on to use a variety of different comedy sketches and props to keep the audience laughing, dancing and, at times, screaming. Blue Men Group is meant to “explore our cultural norms with wide-eyed wonder,” according to a description of the current show. There is never a dull moment during the roughly hour and a half show, and everyone in the audience is kept on their toes.

At some points in the show, three people in neon outfits can be seen in the top corner behind a screen playing different instruments. The musicians are there to add more feeling to the show, including suspense, triumph and the pitfalls of the blue men as they navigate the stage. According to Associate Music Director Jeff Quay, some of the music is completely improvised based on how the crowd is reacting to the different skits in the show.

Audience members in the front row are asked to wear a poncho to avoid being covered in paint, food and a mysterious goo that shoots across the stage and into the audience. At times, the blue men go out into the crowd to find a participant or two who are willing to come up and help them perform. Eric Gebow, a blue man who has been performing with the Blue Man Group for the past 18 years, talked about having to work with the other performers when an audience member doesn’t do as they planned and they have to improvise together and with the band to not make it seem like a flop.

“When we go to get the audience member, there’s a guy that’s always the dominant one to begin with,” Gebow said. “And then we work together, but the audience can get a little lost sometimes. So, we depend on the band to fill that in and tell that story.”

The show hasn’t stayed the same over the last 20 years, though. The show that the theater is currently running has been out since February. The crew in Chicago goes off of a script that is given to them by the writers in New York City and they perform that version of the Blue Men until there is another update to the script. However, there are certain elements of the show that haven’t gone away, like using drumsticks on a variety of objects and the monstrously sized iPhones, which have been used in a different way in each show since 2012.

Though Tobias Fünke isn’t painted blue in this act, Blue Man Group Chicago is still a must-see in Chicago, and DePaul students can take advantage of the college student discount for the show. Blue Man Group Chicago offers a $35 discounted ticket with a valid student ID. The discount can be redeemed at the Briar Street Theatre box office, on Ticketmaster or by calling the venue.