Blue Man Group arrives in Atlanta on Friday night, July 8, for a weekend of four performances at The Fox Theatre. Over the past 35 years, the trio of bald- and blue-headed performers have delighted and astonished audiences around the world with an artful blend of raucous music and mesmerizing mime.
The men in blue have often made music from the most basic props, including oversized boxes of Captain Crunch cereal or a collection of PVC plumbing tubes.
In the PBS documentary “Inside the Tube,” Matt Goldman, the trio’s lone Jewish member, discussed the group’s approach to entertainment and comedy. In it, he described how the group first discovered that the tubes, which came from a local hardware store, could become part of the show.
“We love melody. And so the challenge was how do we, as percussionists, get melody out of our drums? And that’s when we got the idea to play pipes of different lengths. And we started talking to each other through the tubes and then started hitting them and noticing that they had a different tone and different note. We sort of just went from there,” Goldman recalled.
The group, which began in 1987 as a satiric, performance-art production in a small theater on New York’s Lower East Side, has since evolved into a major show business enterprise that brings in well over $100 million a year.
Throughout its long tenure, the show has established permanent companies in Chicago, Boston, New York and in at least two large hotels in Las Vegas, finding offbeat and unique ways to entertain without ever speaking a word.
In the early days, the trio is said to have been partly inspired by a famous six-part series of televised conversations between Joseph Campbell, the mythologist and storyteller, and television journalist Bill Moyers. The series explored what ancient myths can tell us about everyday life. Goldman says that the group learned some valuable lessons from the series.
“I think the one thing Joseph Campbell always seemed to say was that the stories have to get told in new ways for each generation. And I think that really encouraged us to think how can we create a new form? How can we create something that we haven’t seen before? Let’s be relentless in the pursuit of trying to find imagery that we just haven’t seen anywhere.”
The group found ways to wring laughs from the audience with something as simple as opening a Twinkie wrapper. In another of the group’s classic routines, two Blue Men on one side of the stage are cheered on as they throw marshmallows across the stage to another, who catches each in his mouth.
As Phil Stanton, one of the group’s founders, describes it in the documentary, success has been based, in part, on finding new and unexpected ways to delight audiences.
“What the group has taught us is not to be afraid to break the rules and twist things around a little bit. It’s fun to find creativity in these weird places, whether it’s catching marshmallows and gumballs or making music out of plumbing pipes or making music out of a breakfast cereal,” he said.
Blue Man Group productions have debuted at sea, on a luxury cruise ship for five years, as well as in touring companies all over the world, much like the Blue Man Group Speechless Tour that is coming to The Fox. In an act where pantomime reigns and no one speaks, the performances are not limited by language or even, in most cases, cultural norms.
There have been as many as 60 simultaneous performances in various theaters, arenas and hotel venues, all of them effectively replicating the collective Blue Man persona of ordinary characters performing extraordinary feats while covered in blue grease paint.
Goldman sold his shares in the company nine years ago to GE Capital, an investment firm that was part of the famous consumer products conglomerate. In 2017, his two partners sold their interest in the group to Cirque du Soleil, which has also found worldwide success by following a similar philosophy of presenting spectacular entertainment.
In 2009, the original trio founded an independent private school in Manhattan for students as young as two that continues through the primary and middle grades. It seeks to incorporate, in a formal education setting, many of the lessons that the three learned in their 30-year show business career.
In Atlanta, the production is offering $30 student rush discounted tickets for each performance at the Fox, available to anyone who shows up with a valid student ID beginning two hours before the show.