New York performance art finds a home on the Vegas Strip
Those of us who saw Blue Man Group in their formative days at La Mama in New York City's East Village have watched them catapult to the top of the entertainment scene with a certain sense of amusement. Who would have ever guessed that these three weird bald guys who don't utter a single word, paint themselves blue, and give a new meaning to the concept of spray paint would become the toast of the town, not only in New York, but also in Boston, Chicago, and of all places, Las Vegas.
The old Vegas is slowly morphing into a destination not only for gamblers but also for connoisseurs of avant-garde performance art. If that's the case, perhaps Blue Man Group Live at Luxor is the next generation's Rat Pack.
The usual assortment of edible props, homemade musical instruments, and endless rolls of toilet paper expanded into a massive 1,200 - seat theatre, Blue Man Group Live at Luxor is performed nightly to soldout crowds at the Luxor Hotel on the Strip. Blue Man Group founders Chris Wink, Matt Goldman, and Phil Stanton are at the root of all the zaniness that takes place onstage, but behind the scenes they are supported by a large group of designers (and technicians) who help transpose their inspired ideas onto the stage.
In tribute to the success of Live at Luxor, a 2000 EDDY Award goes to Wink, Goldman, and Stanton for their artistic conception of the show, and to the team that helped them pull off the move to Las Vegas, including: Lauren Helpern and David Gallo, set design; Caryl Glaab, video design; Kevin Frech, associate video design; Matthew McCarthy, lighting design; Marc Janowitz, associate lighting design and Live Wire designer; Todd Perlmutter, sound design; Ross Humphrey, sound design; Patricia Murphy, costume design; Chase Tyler, associate costume design; and Scott Fisher, zoetrope designer.
Needless to say, the Blue Man creative process is a little different from most. "Their creative process is always very collaborative," notes Janowitz. "They always listen to everybody and are interested in what you have to say. Even the cleanup guys can contribute, and there are many incarnations of every piece." This translates into an open attitude of accepting different ideas, and frankly, trying just about anything. Or as McCarthy puts it quite succinctly, "Many minds are better than one." The end result speaks for itself.
Blue Man's approach to technology is also a bit unusual. Janowitz recalls a trip to LDI in Orlando in 1996 with McCarthy and Wink, who they lost on the show floor. When they found him, Wink was busy playing with Live Wire, an unusual lighting product that the group has adopted to create a visually arresting animation sequence in the Las Vegas production.
The Blue Man set itself not only needs to be foodproof and waterproof (it is washed down after each performance), but the Luxor show meant a major expansion of the smaller sets that had been used before. Enter Helpern, who worked carefully to make sure the sightlines were good for every scene, and had to devise her own choreography for the quick moves required by the set pieces. Not to mention the stroboscopic effects of the fast-spinning zoetropes designed by Fisher and his company Fisher Technical Services.
Video is incorporated into the performance and the set itself, to enhance the action both on- and offstage. The majority of the video images are created by Caryl Glaab.
Perlmutter and Humphrey went for a kick-ass, rock-inspired sound, since they have a seven - piece band onstage and no spoken words to worry about.
Technology helps communicate the twisted ideas of Blue Man Group to their audiences. Flashing messages on LED screens create a preshow dialogue, video images blend seamlessly with live action, drum solos take centerstage, and loudspeakers and lighting fixtures turn up in highly unusual places. At the center of all this are those three bald guys with their heads still painted blue. Today there are a small army of them, performing all across the United States, both in the original show, Tubes, and in the new Las Vegas extravaganza, Live At Luxor, as Goldman, Stanton, and Wink continue to expand the Blue Man parameters. One can only imagine what they and their design team will think of next.