‘Blue Man’ experience eccentric, captivating

11/05/14 Blue Man Group Header


What’s blue and comes in threes?

The Blue Man Group, which started performing new material for its fall season. The performers deliver an eccentric and captivating show at the Briar Street Theatre, 3133 N. Halsted St.

So what should be expected at a Blue Man Group performance? Many scenes and props that are random, odd and completely out-of-place — but yet, they aren’t.

There’s music — heavy with strong beats by the Blue Man Group, and the iconic bright paint that bounces off the drumheads and into the air. And there are the rock-inspired compositions from the live band above the stage.

There’s food — don’t be mistaken; it’s not for the audience! The Blue Man Group makes inventive use of marshmallows, gumballs, Captain Crunch cereal, Twinkies and more.

There’s interaction — the Blue Man Group does not shy away from the audience, traveling through aisles (even through seats at times) and chooses members to join them onstage.

There are props — pipes, GiPads (their own version of the iPhone), toilet paper, large beach balls and so much more.

But the most important props in the performance are the Blue Men themselves, characterized by their alien-like makeup and primitive movements.

Every Blue Man learns six traits while undergoing the eight-week training program in New York: innocent, scientist, hero, group member, shaman and trickster.

Blue Man Group portrait

“We’re three other-worldly beings trying to connect with people,” says actor Nick Rush. — Photo courtesy of Carol Fox and Associates

Stage directions “Left,” “Center” and “Right” divide the three Blue Men into their own personalities. “Left” is the trickster, “Center” is the scientist and “Right” is the hero, who’s also the most visceral.

Even though each performance showcases three men that depict one of the six traits, they encompass all characteristics throughout the show at some point.

“The Blue Man has all of those basic human traits,” said Nick Rush, a Chicago Blue Man. “If you were to take away all appearances, you would find a raw, vulnerable character.”

Playing a caveman-like character that holds true to basic human instincts is perhaps the closest relationship that the Blue Men hold with the audience. They explore things of Earth and our culture in ways that literally make the audience laugh out loud.

“It’s three guys on a mission. We’re three other-worldly beings trying to connect with people,” Rush said. “We take these things and try to figure them out.”

Rush auditioned in 2010, after moving to Chicago from Wichita, Kansas. He lives in Uptown with his girlfriend and has been performing in the show for four years.

Becoming a Blue Man requires strong acting skills and a sense of musicality, but drumming skills aren’t necessary to audition.

Luckily for Rush, who has been drumming since he was 8 years old, acting is a strong suit for him — an art he picked up in high school that led to an acting scholarship at a local community college.

Admitting that school wasn’t his thing, he “tried to wing it and hopefully become lucky” after moving to Chicago’s theatre scene.

Rush enjoys performing as a Blue Man, even when the season can get busy and requires seven to eight shows a week.

“As a performer, it feels like something new and exciting every night,” he said.

And what about that blue paint on their faces? It takes about 30 minutes to get ready, Rush said. The longest step in preparation isn’t putting on the grease paint, but applying glue to head caps and waiting for it to dry.

Before each show, Rush likes to relax and listen to music backstage.

“The Blue Man isn’t something you put on,” said Rush. “It’s just us with the six traits heightened to another worldly level.”

The Blue Man Group offers student rush tickets. UIC students can present their i-card at the box office two hours before show time for a discounted $35 ticket. Call 773-348-4000 to check availability.


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