By Matthew J. Palm, Orlando Sentinel Entertainment Critic
February 24, 2012
Blue Man Group has made changes to its eclectic mix of music, comedy, improv and general madness, but fans need not fear: The entertaining show at Universal Orlando still is aimed straight at our inner child.
That child is likely to be an 8-year-old boy. For who else gets so much giddy pleasure out of banging on drums, stuffing his mouth full of cereal, splattering paint, joking about butts and generally being loud and messy?
Not that we, the audience, can tell if our affable hosts — the three Blue Men — are enjoying themselves. They remain impassive, yet curiously childlike in the way they explore their surroundings.
And for the uninitiated: Yes, they really are blue-skinned thanks to some amazing makeup work. The concept was founded in 1987 and still has productions going strong in New York, Tokyo, Las Vegas and other cities. Orlando's version opened in 2007.
For this update, Blue Man 2.0 if you will, the focus is even more sharply on technology, specifically the feeling of disconnectedness that today's world of social media can cause. That serves the quizzical Blue Men well with their insatiable curiosity. It doesn't always serve the audience, though. Part of the thrill of live performance is the feeling of a shared experience. An air of detachment hangs over stretches of this show that stifles that feeling.
Perhaps to combat that, there's plenty of audience participation. In fact the funniest segment at Thursday's grand-reopening performance involved the blue guys ineptly trying to woo a woman picked from the audience at a messy dinner.
Yours truly was selected to have a video camera take a journey into my mouth far past the places my dentist usually sees. (Video trickery makes the stunt seem more invasive than it is.)
The revised finale of the show is based almost wholly on audience interaction: Patrons are encouraged to stand, dance and bat around gigantic inflated balls. With all the gee-whiz effects at Blue Man Group's command, letting the audience take the lead on the finale seemed a bit of a cop-out to me — but obviously not to the children and parents whooping it up.
Those gee-whiz effects are put to good use throughout the show — LED lighting across large screens mesmerizes. Sudden shifts in color and sound delight the senses.
The low-tech visuals are still effective, too: You can't beat the sight of the guys, furiously drumming, creating an explosion of colored paint raining back down on them. And for those who might find it all too lowbrow, the blue guys do play an interlude of Beethoven's "Fur Elise." Of course it's played on some crazy tube-laden contraption. And it quickly gives way toLady Gaga's"Bad Romance."
But that's all part of the wonderful weirdness.
Blue Man Group
• What: Highly stylized interactive music and comedy show
• Running time: 1:40, no intermission
• When: One or two shows nightly (times vary)
• Where: Sharp Aquos Theatre, Universal CityWalk, 6000 Universal Blvd., Orlando
• Tickets: $74-$84 general, $25 for ages 9 and younger
• Call: 407-224-7328
• Online: UniversalOrlando.com/blueman
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