Blue Man Group is still blue, but the rest is new

Blue Man Group is back at the Fox Theatre for the first time since 2015 in a new show July 8-10. 
(Courtesy of Evan Zimmerman)

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Blue Man Group is back at the Fox Theatre for the first time since 2015 in a new show July 8-10. (Courtesy of Evan Zimmerman)

The performance trio returns to Atlanta for the first time since 2015.

Mike Brown was blue cause he couldn’t be Blue.

A member of the absurdist performing troupe Blue Man Group for almost 20 years, Brown’s career was derailed for two years by COVID-19, as so many were. No live shows, no frenetic drumming, no splattering paint, no toilet paper shenanigans, no delighted audiences, and definitely no specially formulated blue greasepaint.

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Blue Man Group is back at the Fox Theatre for the first time since 2015 in a new show July 8-10. (Courtesy of Blue Man Group Productions)

Credit: Denise Truscello

BMG show
October 23 2012
Photos By Denise Truscello
Las Vegas Nevada USA
Photos By: Denise Truscello

Credit: Denise Truscello

Combined ShapeCaption
Blue Man Group is back at the Fox Theatre for the first time since 2015 in a new show July 8-10. (Courtesy of Blue Man Group Productions)

Credit: Denise Truscello

Credit: Denise Truscello

“I got a job working at a great donut shop in Boston, but I realized at one point it had been a long time since I made a lot of people laugh,” he said in a telephone interview from a tour stop in Miami. “And I missed it.”

Now the Blues are back, returning to the Fox for their first Atlanta shows since 2015, ones which Brown says are 95 percent new material. The slogan: “Same Blue, the rest is new.”

“We definitely have our signature pieces, and the audience can expect some of these, but this show was created expressly to try something new,” Brown said. “It’s like the audience is being invited to our laboratory and see where we live and invent things.”

Blue Man Group grew out of three friends who donned blue masks in 1988 and held a spoofy “End of the 80s” parade in New York. MTV covered it, and soon the trio were doing nightclub shows, then, starting in 1991, an off-Broadway run that continues today. They locked into their vaudeville-on-acid performance approach early on: three bald men in matching black clothes, their heads and hands painted cobalt blue, banging drums, flinging paint, playing instruments assembled from PVC pipes, and pulling audience members onstage for improvisation. All while never speaking a word.

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Blue Man Group is back at the Fox Theatre for the first time since 2015 in a new show July 8-10. (Courtesy of Lindsey Best)

Credit: Lindsey Best

Blue Man Group is back at the Fox Theatre for the first time since 2015 in a new show July 8-10.
(Courtesy of Lindsey Best)

Credit: Lindsey Best

Combined ShapeCaption
Blue Man Group is back at the Fox Theatre for the first time since 2015 in a new show July 8-10. (Courtesy of Lindsey Best)

Credit: Lindsey Best

Credit: Lindsey Best

Eventually, like their distant cousins-in-spirit Cirque du Soleil (which now owns the Blues), they were doing permanent shows in multiple cities, including Las Vegas, Chicago, Boston and Berlin, plus national and world tours. But they didn’t compromise; the mainstream just expanded enough to embrace their lovable weirdness through appearances on “Ellen,” “The Tonight Show” and the like. Now more than 50 million people have seen a Blue show.

Brown is part of an elite corps of about 200 or so men (and a few women) who have worn the Blue. He saw the show in 1997 in New York while a college student, and as a drummer and theater major, knew he had found his calling. He got a job as a crew member, then auditioned for a Blue role. He said there are four to six cast members for each Group (permanent city or tour), and six Groups right now, so about 30 or so Blue Men. The cast members rotate on the road.

The Blues are known for usually offering a shout-out to wherever they are playing, such as playing a few bars of “Deep in the Heart of Texas” to get Texas audiences to clap along. There are plans for Atlanta, but Brown would not spoil them.

A Blue performance involves audience participation with sometimes semi-willing ticketholders. At earlier stops on this tour, a man had to use a giant shield to ward off a water balloon attack, a woman had to work with the Blues to make a rubber chicken squawk musically, and two strangers were dressed as bride and groom, handcuffed, and pushed back into the audience. You have been warned.

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Blue Man Group is back at the Fox Theatre for the first time since 2015 in a new show July 8-10. (Courtesy of Joan Marcus)

Credit: Joan Marcus

Blue Man Group
Speechless

Credit: Joan Marcus

Combined ShapeCaption
Blue Man Group is back at the Fox Theatre for the first time since 2015 in a new show July 8-10. (Courtesy of Joan Marcus)

Credit: Joan Marcus

Credit: Joan Marcus

“We have a creative team that writes outlines of everything,” Brown explained. “Then each cast and crew get together, and we mold and shape the piece. It definitely changes when we get to the stage. And actually, it changes from night to night. This newer show we can try different moments in different ways just to see how it goes.

“When you bring a participant up on stage you never know what energy they’re going to bring, so you have to be willing to do that dance,” he continued. “We’ve always said there is a template for the show. But then you sort of ride the edge of that template and that’s the improvisation.”

As characters, the Blues are universal. They have no age, no gender, no distinguishing signifiers, and no verbal language, just music and physical humor. And one of their characteristics, going back years, is that they sometimes seem befuddled or confused by modern life. In a post-COVID-19 world, they have only become more relatable.


EVENT PREVIEW

Blue Man Group

8 p.m. July 8; 2 and 8 p.m. July 9; and 1 p.m. July 10. $39-$99. Broadway in Atlanta at the Fox Theater, 660 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta. 855-285-8499, foxtheatre.org.