Hot group revamps show for new digs
The Blue Man is everyone and everywhere. Created in New York City in the late ’80s in a small 300-seat theater in New York’s East Village by friends Chris Wink, Phil Stanton and Matt Goldman, Blue Man has evolved into a phenomenon with full-blown tours and a high-end Vegas show. Now, with their new show at the Venetian in a custom-made theater, Blue Man continues to raise the bar. Matt Goldman, one of the co-founders, talks to Casino Player about the evolution, growth and power of the Blue Man Group.
CP: Could you tell me how Blue Man has grown?
MG: I think that the core of that whole question is that we have remained an artist-owned and operated organization. [Because of that] we have a model that doesn’t really exist in any place else that we know of. It is not the Broadway model. It is not the Cirque model. It’s not the traditional Vegas entertainment model. So we are at once cognizant of the realities of having to run an organization with a lot of people, and meeting payroll and insurance and all that kind of stuff, but at the same time we get to make as pure, creatively-driven decisions as one can have in the realities of having to survive in a commercial world.
How was the new theater for Blue Man created at the Venetian?
It wasn’t a theater. It was a just a room. They were renting it out and doing “V” the variety show and who knows what else [there]. But it didn’t have a fly gallery, not all the infrastructure that would support a major kind of show. Unlike Phantom we don’t need water and things flying around.
Did you create new Blue Man sequences specifically for the Venetian?
One thing that we did was completely change our approach to lighting and set from scratch, start to finish. The Luxor show was a black void and we brought onto the stage whatever we needed for that bit and took it out. The Venetian is just the opposite. First of all, we were working with this guy, Marc Brickman. Marc Brickman is the guy who was the production designer for Pink Floyd’s The Wall. He also did the Nine Inch Nails concerts that got all the attention with those crazy screens that flew all around. He is like a god in the rock world. He described [this new show] in that he took all his 30-plus years of experience in the rock world, and we took all our experience in the Blue Man world and we smashed it all together to create what we did at the Venetian.
So this Blue Man is more of a rock show?
Not exactly but [for example] one of the new pieces in the show is a send-up to the rock concert experience. It is “Blue Man Stumbles upon a ‘How to Be a Rock Star’ manual.” For about seven or eight minutes, the Blue Man plays rock star and the audience plays adoring, insane, over-the-top rock fans. And everyone is role-playing but it’s so fun. We just tell people what to do, like pump their fist in the air or scream with both your arms flying high. And we sneak in behind it some of the coolest rock effects you’ll ever see. We’re making fun of the medium. But, at the same time, we trying to give you the best part of a rock concert you’ll ever see.
Does it become purely about perception of what the audience is seeing?
Overall [that is inherent in how] we’ve created the set. It has 80 feet of depth. There is all this tubing and connections. We light it. We only use 40 feet where Blue Man is actually performing. [But in the back space] we project on it. It’s moving. It’s organic. It’s industrial. [At times] you’re not sure if it is the information age because there’s cables and, at other times, it’s the industrial age where there’s giant pipes with sludge going through them. The first half [of the new show] is very similar [to the old one] but yet it is more “old school” than it’s ever been. We take a lot more attention in getting the audience and the Blue Man to know one another in the first half. We really want the audience to connect to the humanity of the Blue Man. Then as the show starts to unfold, the set starts to reveal itself and things become bigger and more spectacular. But you’re still connected to the humanity. The second half [of the show] at the Venetian has much more Blue Man character. It has much more humor. And it has much better music.
CP: What is in your mind as you transition through new eras of Blue Man?
That has always been the challenge. Every show we do is a continuation from the previous shows. It’s updated. It’s an evolution. Our latest thinking. So we never talk about it being a whole new show. It’s not like that. But what we have been able to do is articulate it to ourselves [where we ask] “What is it? What is this quality? Why does it happen at the end of the show where 98 or 99 percent of everyone who saw the show would recommend it to a friend or family member?” What we have gotten in touch with recently is that the show is about creating a certain feeling. There is no fourth wall, so the personality of the audience actually has an effect on the show. In its baseline, we are trying to get this feeling of euphoria, this heightened experience of feeling great. This morning we were talking and realizing that sometimes it takes a group experience to feel great as an individual and how that applies in different scenarios. We have to just make sure that we have our eye on the ball. That we have this feeling. The themes resonate because it is all about what it is to be human. At first, the Blue Man looks like this creature and then you realize that it is actually a piece of you and I and everyone.