The Blue Man Group variety show is billed as family entertainment, so you walk into the theatre expecting everything a child would enjoy; peppy music, a stage peppered with props, boisterous gestures and a whole lot of slapstick comedy to keep the fleeting attention span in check for 1.5hours.
The Blue Man Group, which made its Middle Eastern debut at The Dubai Opera this week, has a heady dose of all those elements, but in sporadic bursts. The show is being staged in Dubai until Saturday and will move to the du Forum in Abu Dhabi from April 18 to 22.
As the adults and kids settle down before the show begins, the Blue Man team has already drawn attention to their blue lit stage with random messages that scroll across electronic screens that have the children in giggles. “Let’s congratulate Stuart for riding a sheep. Ready, Go!” And in between, they cleverly slip in theatre etiquette guidelines for the audience, as well.
Viewers in the first few rows are also handed plastic ponchos to protect them from gloop that the cast spews in all directions. Opt for these seats if you want an immersive experience, and don’t mind being splattered in paint.
As the light dims, the sound of drums crescendo and three bald men covered in blue paint take centerstage to a bass heavy entrance theme and colourful spotlights that remind me of the psychedelic pop rock music videos from the 70s.
The high-intensity musical opening, which now has some children dancing in the aisles, continues as the performers whip out drum sticks and make a mess with coloured water. As one of them drums, the other two pour yellow and red water onto the drums which sprays all over a canvas that they turn into abstract art - and later hand over to a member in the audience. The play with paint goes on for a while before moving on to more contemporary acts.
The Blue Man Group has been around for 25 years, so revamping their routine to stay fresh is key when you are targeting children.
That’s when the three blue performers, who are now backed by an entire band that play in sync to their odd movements, turn to a screen that has now transformed into a gigantic smartphone.
The routine is a chucklesome mockery on the constant struggle to create multiple passwords and pop-up ads. Adults will get it, young kids might not be able to make the association. But they are kept entertained by the sudden computerised sounds and the perplexed expressions of the performers, which they maintain throughout the show.
The group has a knack for converting seemingly ordinary, everyday items into larger-than-life pieces and instruments. The crunch from chewing cereal became a jarring melody and leftover PVC plumping supplies were turned into thumping percussion instruments.
The blue men perform mute and their choreographed missteps is what garners the laughs. Each on-stage set is succeeded by an audience interaction, as well. There were many times that the wide-eyed, alien-looking blue men walked into the crowd to take a selfie or to bring a member on stage. One of them had to participate in an elaborate dinner number where they were feeding and throwing food at each other. The other volunteer was in for a rougher time as he was suited up in overalls and a helmet, taken backstage and covered in paint before being hanged upside down and slammed into a canvas to create a blue silhouette.
The groups creativity in designing their own instruments that create an interesting cacophony of sounds works to making them stand out as a variety show. But stretched out sequences and repetitive actions tend to sometimes detract from their strengths. There was a point during one of the routines that a group of children sitting behind me were impatiently shuffling in their seats and asking their guardian when it would end. The pulsing bass boosted live soundtrack is what made the show a hit for me, though it did get excruciating loud for my companion and he had to walk out a few times during the show.
But it was the finale, when the blue men throw streamers and toilet paper and launched zygote beach balls into the audience, that summed up their earnest attempt to bring the playful, no–holds–barred side in everyone, even if it was for just a short while.