Appellate Judge James A. Stewart thought they were called Blue Man Group because they were depressed. He's glad he was mistaken.
"You probably already have great hair and wild, brightly colored clothes."
Ever seen the ad—I think it's for IBM—with those blue, bald guys? Who are they, anyway?
The answer, of course, is Blue Man Group. Even if, like me, you've never seen one of their vaudeville-inspired stage shows, you recognize them as a performance art phenomenon that has passed into the pop culture mainstream. They've even franchised; you can see them live in New York, Orlando, Las Vegas, Boston, Chicago, Berlin, and Oberhausen, according to the Blue Man Group site on the Web. Still, I haven't seen them live yet, so I was curious about just what is that these Blue Men do—and whether I could sit through it for an hour and a half with Blue Man Group: How to be a Megastar Live!, a filmed version of a Dallas show that has a CD as an added bonus.
Yes, I can. I haven't seen the Blue Man Group live, but I have seen Cirque du Soleil in person. Blue Man Group's performances, like Cirque du Soleil's, are broad-based, mostly visual spectacles. They start with the antics of the Blue Men, who play industrial pipes with glowing red sticks. The Men are kind of simple and big on audience participation, as a bit in which they order Rock Concert Instruction Manual Version 2.0 suggests. They're stunned at first when an automated voice on the phone asks for a credit card number, but they head into the front rows of the audience, looking in purses for a card until they find a woman who's game to play along. Their attempts to match the typical gyrating pelvises of rock megastars are hilarious.
The Blue Man Group is backed up here by a band and vocalists (not blue), and a light show that bathes the stage in color (sometimes red, sometimes blue), and occasionally produces wild effects, like black light that turns the Blue Men into stick figures. If that wasn't enough, there's a vid screen with comedy sketches, images, and the words to songs to back them up and heighten audience participation. The most inspired video bit is a "profile" of Floppie the Banjo Clown, a famous rock star you've never heard of because they made him up.
Since audience participation and reaction are a big part of the Blue Man Group's appeal, an actual concert is undoubtedly a better experience—unless you want to avoid having stuff sprayed at you and having Blue Men go through your purse or wallet. The safer TV version, though, is an acceptable diversion.
A drum set that has paint shooting up from it looks a little odd on screen, but most of the show, with all its strange lighting, looks good. You won't catch all the words in those rock songs, but that's part of a concert experience, too, isn't it?
The DVD features several extras. "Inside the Tube," a 38-minute documentary, features the original Blue Men (remember, they're franchised): Phil Stanton, Chris Wink, and Matt Goldman. They talk about their inspirations and the rock tour. Since it includes some clips not shown in the main feature, it's worth a look. Also included are two video shorts, "Mono" and "I Feel Love." "Mono" starts with a plea from a Bono-like rock star to save the "old-fashioned boxy TV sets," and then shows the Blue Men in a gag with video monitors. "I Feel Love" is a music video set in a diner featuring the Blue Men. "Mono" is a scream; "I Feel Love" pretty much is just a music video.
I listened to the CD before checking out the DVD. It does stand alone, with the weird noises on "Shirts and Hats" even bringing a smile and a few chuckles while listening. A booklet with photos and song list rounds out the package.
The DVD/CD set comes in a choice of CD jewel case or DVD-sized case. The CD case is fine with me, but I'd have appreciated full DVD details on the case or in the booklet accompanying so I didn't have to fiddle with my DVD player to let you, dear reader, know that Megastar is 1.78:1 anamorphic.
How to Be a Megastar Live! is a good introduction to Blue Man Group. If you're curious and you've enjoyed TV specials or DVDs from Cirque du Soleil, or even pantomime comedy like Mr. Bean, you'll probably like it. If you've seen the tour and want a souvenir, it's a fine job that'll bring back happy memories (unless the Blue Men really do have your credit card number). A few uncomfortable jokes about drinking, puking, and codpieces make it one that'll make some parents cringe, but it's mostly harmless. Not guilty.
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