Blue Man Group, appearing at Tennessee Performing Arts Center through January 11, combines music, technology, visual art and comedy to create a fun and unique audience experience. We had the pleasure this morning of meeting Blue Men Mike Brown and Adam Zuick, as well as percussionist and music director Jesse Nolan, to learn a little bit about what it’s like to be part of the phenomenon.
“At Blue Man Group, we always try to be as creative and unique as possible,” Brown explains. “We want to give our audience something that is really rare and without comparison. We always push the envelope with creativity, like taking something that is an everyday object and turning it on its head through implemented exploration, and making something completely different out of it.”
Becoming a Blue Man is an extensive process. The initial audition is usually three to four days of callbacks. Those selected from the callbacks attend a training, which is about 8 weeks of learning the necessary skills and the different numbers from the show. Not everyone who goes through the training becomes a Blue Man. As Zuick describes it in the video, it’s like an extended audition.
There are many impressive tasks and stunts done by the Blue Men, but according to Zuick one of the most difficult is throwing and catching the marshmallows and gum balls in their mouths. They practice that skill constantly, whether it is in rehearsals or during sound check. Since the stage changes with every city on tour, the distance they have to throw or catch from is always changing. Other impressive tasks the Blue Men perform include playing a wide variety of unique instruments and creating visual art through movement.
The Blue Men typically use drumming instruments because drumming creates a “visceral and trial response in the audience,” says Brown. “They can feel the pulse and the beat of what we’re doing. It also creates a really intimate internal response which heightens the level of what the Blue Men are trying to achieve.”
In the video, watch Brown, Zuick, and Nolan demonstrate how to play a PVC-pipe”drumbone,” which is like a trombone in the way the pieces work but is played with drumsticks instead of air, and a talking drum, which is typically the “melodic voice” in an African drum ensemble. They use the latter in Blue Man Group to underscore the action on the stage, i.e. when a Blue Man catches something in his mouth.
The music continues to evolve over time as the show and technology change.
“We do actually change the material in the show when we feel it needs refreshing.” Nolan tells us, ” We have a couple pieces that are oldies but goodies in the show, sort of blue man staples that people recognize as being almost inseparable from the character, but we still refine those pieces as we go out.”
While in Nashville, Nolan tells us, the cast is taking advantage of all our city has to offer, including hitting up the Honky Tonks and running into the occasional celebrity (a Nashville tradition).
Blue Man Group runs now through Sunday, January 11 at TPAC’s Andrew Jackson Hall. Visit tpac.org for more information.
For a more extensive list of the live productions happening in Middle Tennessee, visit NowPlayingNashville.com’s Stage section.