BOYS IN BLUE
BY ANDY IHNATKO
OK, I'm a little bugged by Blue Man Group now. Oh, I like the show. Don't get me wrong...I'm a big fan of the ancient Bunch Of Guys Doing Pleasantly Confusing Things For A While tradition of theatre. You can keep your Russian drawing-room quickies and your roller-skating cats and all those modern productions inspired by the need to give Joyce deWitt a comeback vehicle. No, give me a trio of blue-headed freaks throwing cereal and toilet paper around the stage of a historic theater for two hours and I'm a happy guy. No one was more pleased than I when I first heard that the lads were headed here to Boston for an extended run; I knew that if nothing else, they'd divert some theatergoing dollars from the Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat Featuring Donny Osmond juggernaut.
So why does the show bug me now? Because recently I found out that there are actually several sets of Blue Men currently in circulation. See, I had been under the impression that we were being favored by the hijinx of the Blue Men, not a Blue...er, Men. I just somehow had the notion that the Blue Men were sort of like an off-Broadway version of the Justice League of America. Yes, The Green Lantern and Batman and Wonder Woman conceal their true identities, but that doesn't mean that they exploit this by going out and franchising the concept to other cities, does it? Wouldn't it cheapen the whole Batman concept if, in addition to the truly bad-ass Gotham Batman, there was a sort of touchy-feely Portland Batman who looks for the un-nurtured potential in the members of the criminal element? That's just wrong!
Clearly, this concept of Multiple Blue Men is murky water, ethically-speaking. Ok, I sense your contempt: yes, I'm well aware that on any given day in December there are dozens of simultaneous productions of Les Miserables and thousands of people playing Santa Claus, though in the latter case I would counterargue that Santa Claus is actually more of a seasonal expression of the fundamental spirit of goodwill which kind people choose to manifest than an actual theater presentation. My thoughts on Lloyd-Webber musicals, I can't properly present in this limited format.
The point is that when we pay to see the fifth road company of Phantom Of The Opera, we can see the actors' faces. We there on folding chairs in the Rensselaer Field House know right away that it's not what's-her-face and that guy, the timeless pair who stole our hearts in the original Broadway run. The Blue Men, on the other hand, are masked (after a fashion) and therefore can shamelessly exploit our fundamental childlike faith in the honesty of road-tour performers. The fearsome Blue Men organization, for its part, claims that a Blue Man is not any one performer, but a concept which, like jolly Saint Nick, can be manifested by anyone.
Sure, explain that to the sobbing child in the balcony who paid $32.50 to get in. But I can put my bitterness aside and see the possibilities this suggests. What if all those road shows of Les Miserables decided to exploit the Blue Men's precedent? Claimed that the upcoming show in the Cape Cod Melody Tent is indeed the real Broadway production, because each and every performer will take the stage with a red five-gallon bucket over his or her head? It'd be fantastic. Five dozen blind people stumbling around on a huge motorized turntable, sent whirling offstage and into the orchestra in tangles of threes and fours, gamely continuing to sing but sounding like they're all trapped inside a bathroom on a submarine.
Now that's avant-garde theater. It'd make the Blue Men's little "Head Trapped In Jello" routine look like Hello, Dolly.