Wednesday, January 12, 2011

January Blue

The first day of 2011 found Wide Open Spaces in downtown Philadelphia in the immediate aftermath of the Mummer's New Year's Day parade. As we parked the car, we watched a few straggler Mummers making their way back home, still in full make-up and costume. We left the garage and exited onto Broad Street and into the largest sea of crushed beer cans I have ever seen in my life. It was impossible to take a step without landing on a can - Coors Light seemed to be the beverage of choice for the New Year's Day revelers.

We were here to take in the Blue Man Group show, and enjoy a relatively balmy January evening out.

Remarkably, there were very few people on the streets. We soon found out why - almost every business and store was closed in the immediate area. We first tried to stop in the lobby of the Hyatt Bellevue to regroup, but the hotel's doors were locked and only guests could enter. I suppose all those beer cans added up to a lot of beer-drinkers looking for facilities - and local places did not want to provide that type of service! We continued walking, along Sansom and Chestnut Streets, but the only doors open we found were to pubs.

With over an hour until our main attraction, we decided to head to the Comcast Building to view its spectacular 3-D holiday video light show. In the weeks before Christmas, the video show was presented in front of packed, standing room only audiences. This night, however, we were part of a handful of visitors who showed up and we could relax and stretch out on benches or the floor to take in the show.

The Comcast show is a series of vignettes projected on a wall of LED screens. Ballet dancers, jugglers, and snowflakes all flutter by in crisp, life-like images. At one point, viewers have the impression that they are skiing down a snow-covered mountain; later we are in the air looking down at all the lights illuminating the city.

After Comcast, we needed a bite to eat before the theatre. When we made plans, we figured there would be a hundred little places at which to stop on a Saturday night in the city. Wrong. The sidewalks apparently rolled up before the Mummers strutted past. Even Dunkin' Donuts was closed. Thank goodness for tiny Ciao Pizza on 17th street or else we would have been famished for the evening.

A little before 8:00, we took our seats in the Merriam Theatre, part of the gorgeous Kimmel Center. I had never been to a Blue Man Group show and had no idea what to expect, but I thought a review of the show would make a great post for Raining Acorns. So I took a lot of notes during the show and the next day sat down to compose my review. But I had a problem.

I couldn't write the review.

It's impossible to describe the lightning quick action on the stage in a fashion that would make sense to the reader. And even if I could, reporting on what sort of musical antics the BMG pulled off during the show would ruin it for anyone who would see it in the future. The BMG show can be described as a sort of pastiche of comedy, music, pantomime, percussion, and what appears to be improv.

Suffice it to say, the show involved plenty of the group's signature drumming - on drum heads filled with paint, on PVC pipes outfitted like a marimba, and on plenty of other surfaces. The show also made heavy use of video technology, including one scene with 3 giant iPad-like devices that provided simultaneous video in a bit that was a part commentary on current culture and the decline of reading, and part summary of the world's greatest literature. With men painted blue. See, hard to describe.

The program also involved things like a Twinkie dinner party, spin-art, fire extinguishers, marshmallows, Cap'n Crunch cereal, and a dissertation on cone and rod photoreceptors in the eye. Somehow, those things fit together seamlessly over the almost 2 hour show. The crowd varied in age from young to old, and the humor likewise ranged from slapstick to sophisticated. All without any words uttered by the blue men.

After the finale, encore, confetti, streamers, and jokes were finished, we made our way back out to Broad Street. The street and sidewalks had been entirely swept clean of all beer cans, litter, and traces of the thousands of parade-goers who had congregated here just hours before. The city looked appropriately brand new on the first night of the year.

Click here for a peek at a BMG performance:

Blue Man Group

Here is a glimpse of the Comcast show:


  1. Great post! Every time I see an image of those blue men, I wonder what the group is all about - now I have a very good idea.

  2. Well, of course I loved (and thoroughly recognized) that you went with your notepad and pen, primed to get material for RA, then sat down to write and . . . BUT, I have to say, while, like Caron-Ann, I've known of this group and read descriptions of what they do, yours is the first that gave me anything like a clear picture of what might go on onstage.

    I've also just learned from my better half that the group started a K-5 school in New York City, and the school is actually educationally sound. So, inside those blue heads some great thinking goes on.

    Here's a bit from a Times article I found:

    The original Blue Men--Matt Goldman, Phil Stanton, Chris Wink--came together as "sort of a support group for people whose creativity had been all but squeezed out of them by education," says Wink. "At one point, we asked, What if there was a school you didn't have to recover from, that didn't make you question the idea of being creative?"

    That apparently was the spark. The whole article can be found by clicking here.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.