Blue Man Group
Blue Man Group playing the Drumbone in concert, December 2007
|Purpose||Avant-garde, performance art|
Blue Man Group is an organization founded in 1987 by Chris Wink, Matt Goldman and Phil Stanton. The organization produces theatrical shows and concerts featuring experimental music (with an emphasis on percussion), comedy and multimedia; recorded music and scores for film and television; numerous television appearances, and a children's museum exhibit ("Making Waves"). All of the organization's theatrical performances star a trio of humanoid characters called Blue Men, played by actor-musicians who wear bald caps and uniform blue makeup.
Wink and Goldman became friends when they bonded as the "new kids" in a Manhattan junior high school. In college, however, the two went separate ways: Wink to Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut and Goldman to Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. After college in 1984, Wink and Goldman reunited in NYC and later, in 1986, met Stanton, a recent transfer from Savannah, Georgia. Formed in 1987 as a salute to the 1980s by Goldman, Stanton, and Wink, The Blue Man Group played around Manhattan in such venues as Central Park, the Performing Garage, Dixon Place and PS 122.
Meryl Vladimer, the artistic director of The Club @ La MaMa, saw their work as part of a variety show hosted by the Alien Comic (Tom Murrin) and commissioned Blue Man Group to create a full-length show. The resulting piece, Tubes, took off after Vladimer persuaded New York Times theater critic Stephen Holden to review it. Blue Man Group's popularity continued to increase following performances at Lincoln Center's summer Serious Fun Festival, and winning an Obie Award and a Lucille Lortel Award, which led producers to take the show to off-Broadway. Tubes opened in 1991 at the Astor Place Theater in New York City. Besides the three Blue Men, the show featured musicians Larry Heineman, Ian Pai and Brian Dewan, with scenery by Kevin Joseph Roach and lighting by Brian Aldous. In 1996, the group hired inventor/musician Jimmy Cook to design and build experimental musical instruments for new shows in Boston and Chicago as well as appearances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Cook was a member of the group until 1999.
Early in the history of the group, the members would speak with audiences after the show while still in makeup, answering questions, signing autographs, and talking about the show. Eventually, however, it was decided that cast members would stay in character at all times while in makeup, meaning after shows they would still not speak to audience members, and the only "autograph" would be a smudge of blue paint. When shown a "new" piece of technology, such as a cell phone or even an old pair of binoculars, they will simply stare at it in wonder.
Current theatrical productions
- United States
- "Tubes/Rewired/NowMoreWow" in New York City at the Astor Place Theatre (1991–present)
- "Tubes/Rewired/NowMoreWow" in Boston at the Charles Playhouse (1995–present)
- "Tubes/Rewired/NowMoreWow" in Chicago at the Briar Street Theater (1997–present)
- "NowMoreWow" in Orlando at the Blue Man Group Theatre at CityWalk at the Universal Orlando Resort (June 6, 2007–present)
- "Smokin'" in Las Vegas at the Blue Man Theatre at Monte Carlo Resort and Casino (October 10, 2012–present)
- U.S. National Tour (September 2, 2010–present)
- Berlin at the Bluemax Theater (February 1, 2006–present)
Previous theatrical productions
- United States
- "Live at Luxor" in Las Vegas at the Luxor Hotel and Casino (March 10, 2000 – September 15, 2005)
- "Bluephoria/Live at The Venetian – Las Vegas" in Las Vegas, Nevada at The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino (October 10, 2005 – September 30, 2012)
- Berlin at the Theater am Potsdamer Platz (May 9, 2004 – January 31, 2006)
- Oberhausen at the Metronom Theatre (March 11, 2007 – October 3, 2008)
- Stuttgart at the Apollo Theater (February 28, 2008 – October 12, 2008)
- United Kingdom
- Amsterdam at the Theater Fabriek (December 2006 – September 30, 2007)
- Tokyo at the Roppongi Invoice Theatre (December 1, 2007 – November 29, 2009)
- Tokyo at the Roppongi Blue Man Theatre (April 29, 2010 – March 31, 2012)
- Basel at Musical Theater Basel (October 25, 2008 – January 11, 2009)
- Zürich at Theater 11 (January 17, 2010 – May 2, 2010)
- Sydney at the Sydney Lyric Theatre (August 2013 - October 2013; rest of Australian tour to Perth and Melbourne cancelled)
- International Blue Man Theatrical Tour
Blue Man Group is in the midst of an International Blue Man Theatrical Tour. This tour started in Stuttgart, proceeded to Basel, Zürich, and Vienna, and will eventually go to Spain, France, and the Netherlands for approximately two to six-month runs in each location.
Music and tours
In 1999, the group released their first audio recording, titled Audio. Although it contained some of the music from their stage productions, it was less of a soundtrack and more a collection of full-length instrumentals that featured new instruments.
Unlike Audio, The Complex featured a variety of vocalists and guests including Tracy Bonham, Dave Matthews, Gavin Rossdale and Venus Hum. The record spawned its own 2003 tour, the first headlined by Blue Man Group. The tour deconstructed the traditional rock concert experience into its often clichéd parts and was chronicled in a 2004 DVD release. The tour featured Tracy Bonham and Venus Hum as supporting acts. The DVD included a surround sound mix of some of the studio recordings.
Blue Man Group launched its second tour, The "How to Be a Megastar Tour 2.0", on September 26, 2006. The tour added some new material to material from the original Complex Rock Tour, and had Tracy Bonham as an opening act and vocalist. DJ/VJ Mike Relm was the opening act for the second leg of this tour, which ended April 22, 2007 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. This third leg of the tour began in May 2007 and included performances in Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Monterrey, Mexico; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and Santiago, Chile. The fourth leg, using "2.1" in its title, included more U.S. and Canada dates. Following that, the Megastar World Tour visited France, Korea, Canada, Germany, and a few other European countries throughout 2008.
The "How to Be a Megastar Tour 2.0" visited Taipei, Taiwan from August 19 to 23 as part of a promotional campaign for the 2009 Summer Deaflympics in Taipei, most of the show's dialogue displayed with subtitle. As Typhoon Morakot hit the island and caused serious damage in mid August, the group agreed to perform one extra show with the proceeds being donated to the victims of the flood.
Announced in 2009, Blue Man Group began performing for the first time at sea on Norwegian Cruise Line's newest ship, the Norwegian Epic. The Epic began alternating 7-Day Eastern and Western Caribbean sailings from Miami with Blue Man Group shows nightly in July 2010.
In 2013 a tour to South Africa was announced, marking the first performances on the African continent. Dates are yet to be confirmed, although it seems as if the shows will be in July.
There are a number of different themes found in various Blue Man performances. These themes include:
- Science and technology, especially the topics of plumbing, fractals, human sight, DNA, and the Internet.
- Information overload and information pollution, such as when the audience is asked to choose one of three simultaneous streams of information to read.
- Innocence, as when the Blue Men appear to be surprised and perplexed by common artifacts of modern society or by audience reactions.
- Self-conscious and naïve imitation of cultural norms, such as attempting to stage an elegant dinner for an audience member with Twinkies; or following the Rock Concert Instruction Manual (see below) with the expectation that following a series of instructions is all it takes to put on a rock concert.
- The Outsider. Blue Men always appear as a group of three. This is because not only are Blue Men viewed as outsiders to the rest of the world, but three is the smallest group possible wherein there can be a subgroup of more than one as well as a subgroup of one, the outsider. Many of the Blue Man skits involve one of the three Blue Men performing in a manner inconsistent with the other two.
- Rooftops, or otherwise climbing to the top. There are a number of references, both in visual pieces and in lyrics from the Complex tour, that have a common theme of getting to the roof. This theme is a metaphor for the advice Stanton, Wink, and Goldman drew from Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers's PBS program The Power of Myth and represents "Following your bliss."
In September 2008, Variety reported that the original trio (Matt Goldman, Chris Wink and Phil Stanton) would star in a Blue Man Group IMAX 3D feature film, to be produced by Charlotte Huggins. The film, titled Blue Man Group: Mind Blast, was to be directed by David Russo and released by National Geographic Entertainment. The group's website confirmed that the film would arrive in theaters in 2011, although it has not been released.
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Blue Man Group is largely a non-union organization. There have been union organizing efforts at shows in Toronto and Las Vegas, but the show is no longer performed in Toronto.
In September 2005, Blue Man Group moved from Luxor Hotel and Casino, where they operated under the hotel’s union contract, to The Venetian Hotel and Casino, where there was not a union contract in place. Stagehands at the Venetian started an organizing campaign with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees in Las Vegas, leading to a vote in May 2006. Before the vote, Matt Goldman, a co-founder of Blue Man Group, pledged to honor the results "in accordance with the great democratic traditions of our country."
In the May 2006 election, the stagehands voted to be represented by IATSE Local 720. In June the National Labor Relations Board certified the results. The winning election permitted the employees to start bargaining a contract with Blue Man Group. After the election, Blue Man Group refused to negotiate, arguing that the election was not valid because it did not include a half-dozen musical technicians who repair and maintain the show’s unusual musical instruments.
In June, the union filed an unfair labor practice charge with the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB sided with the union. The company filed a challenge, sending the case to the full Board in Washington, D.C. In September 2006 the NLRB rejected the challenge, ordering bargaining to begin.
In September 2006, Blue Man Group filed a petition for review of the NLRB’s order in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Blue Man Group argued that the musical technicians, who work side by side with the stage crew, should have been included in the bargaining unit and, for this reason, the NLRB’s election and resulting certification of Local 720 as the bargaining representative were invalid. In October, the NLRB filed a cross-petition for enforcement of its order. (D.C. Cir. Nos. 06–1328 & 06–1341 NLRB v. Blue Man Vegas, LLC Board Case Nos. 28-CA-20868 and 28-RC-6440).
The union has also filed charges of federal unfair labor practices with the NLRB Las Vegas office, contending that Blue Man Group illegally changed the show's work rules and fired a key union supporter.
On June 10, 2008, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in favor of the NLRB and denied Blue Man Group’s petition for review. Following this decision upholding the election, Blue Man Group and the union promptly began negotiations for a collective bargaining agreement.
The union withdrew the legal complaints with Blue Man Group in 2010.
- The Complex Rock Tour Live DVD (2003) – Live concert footage taken from shows in Grand Prairie, Texas.
- Robots (film) (2005) – Performed on soundtrack for movie.
- Inside the Tube (2006) – A special one-hour documentary created originally for PBS. Features interviews with Stanton, Wink, and Goldman describing the Blue Men, and video clips from various theatrical performances. Available through the PBS store and also as an extra on the How To Be A Megastar Live! DVD.
- How to Be a Megastar Live! (2008) – Live concert footage from Blue Man Group's newest tour. It was released on DVD on April 1 and Blu-ray on November 4, 2008. The DVD version includes a bonus audio CD of many of the show's songs.
- Scoring Reel – a scoring DVD only available in 2004.
Awards and nominations
- 1992 Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience (winner)
- 1999 Grammy Award for Audio (nominee)
- 2011 Off Broadway Alliance Awards' Audience Choice Award for Best Long-Running Show (winner)
- Überschall, a Las Vegas band consisting of past and present members of Blue Man Group
- Penn Jillette, a Blue Man affiliate and Las Vegas magician
- "Topic Galleries". CTnow.
- "BMP on". Answers.com.
- Lola Ogunnaike, "For the Blue Man Army, Recruitment Is on the Rise", New York Times, October 10, 2005
- Vicki Goldberg, "High Tech Meets Goo With Blue Man Group", New York Times, November 17, 1991
- Village Voice 1990–1991 Obie awards. Retrieved December 23, 2007.
- Lucille Lortel Awards – Previous Nominees and Recipients. Retrieved December 23, 2007.
- Viki Goldberg, "Blue Man Joins the Vegas Collection, New York Times, April 30, 2000
- "Blue Man Group National Tour". January 21, 2010. Retrieved February 9, 2010.
- "Norwegian Introduces Norwegian Epic's Captains And Hotel Directors Unveils Inaugural Sailing Dates in Europe and U.S. Miami – Oct 15, 2009". http://www.ncl.com/.
- BLUE MAN GROUP / Show in Berlin – English[dead link]
- "Blue men pack up bags". Official London Theatre Guide (Society of London Theatre). March 27, 2007. Retrieved 2007-05-28.
- "Blue Man Group – "DIE SHOW SENSATION"". Bluemangroup.ch. Retrieved 2009-11-23.
- Blue Man Group: Inside the Tube. PBS. 2006.
- Cohen, David S. (September 8, 2008). "Blue Man Group heads to bigscreen". Variety.
- Cohen, David S. (September 15, 2009). "Blue Man, Nat Geo map 3D pic plans". Variety.
- "What is Blue Man Group?". Archived from the original on March 17, 2011.
- Michael J. Mishak, Las Vegas Sun. "'Example of how rotten labor law is'". Las Vegas Sun.
- "Next Blue Man Group act: Bargain with union – Business". Lvrj.com. June 12, 2008.
- Michael J. Mishak, "Culinary finds own path to growth: Forced to use elections, other unions fall short of organizing success", Las Vegas Sun, December 1, 2007
- Michael J. Mishak "Ignoring law, Blue Man Group drags out union fight", Las Vegas Sun, October 9, 2007
- BLUEMAN PRODUCTIONS SETTLED (Notification date 12/2010) International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employes (IATSE)
- "Off Broadway Alliance Awards". Retrieved August 24, 2011.
- "Blue Man Group: Color them cool"[dead link] – Orlando Sentinel, January 5, 2007
- "Toronto’s Blue Period?" – kapiTal magazine, December 2006
- "Who killed Blue Man Group?" – Toronto Star, September 29, 2006
- "Canuck unions blue over group" – Variety, June 16, 2005
- "The Business of Blue Man" – Fortune Small Business, March 2003
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Blue Man Group.|
- Official websites: General, Germany, Japan, Switzerland
- Blue Man Group at the Internet Movie Database
- Blue Man Group discography at MusicBrainz
- Unofficial fan community, including podcast feed
- Inc. Magazine profile