Pensacola, Florida
Wednesday October 22nd 2014

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Feeling Blue?

By Jennifer Leigh

Founded in 1987, Blue Man Group has been entertaining audiences internationally with its hybrid performance art and music concerts. Unlike hair-sprayed bangs, acid wash jeans and car phones, the group is just as popular — if not more — than it was in the ‘80s.

During their current tour, Blue Man Group will be bringing their paint-splattered drums to Pensacola.

“The show is really hard to put into words,” said Ben Forster, who plays drums in the group. “It’s music, comedy, vaudeville — it strives to make the audience feel like it’s a part of something. Our goal from start to finish is to create the sense of togetherness.”

This is Forster’s first tour with the group. Only last year the New York University alumnus was a fan of the show, and now he gets to don the blue paint. It’s a task he says takes 30 minutes to put on and 20 minutes to take off.

Forster’s background from NYU is acting, specifically physical acting. “Letting my body inform the charter,” he explained. He had no musical training prior to landing his Blue Man Group audition. Once he made the cut, he was assigned a private drum teacher, where he practiced until he was tour-ready.

“I had seen the show a long time ago and was struck by what was happening on stage,” he said.  “I like how the show is open to the actor’s sense of play.”

According to the Blue Man Group website, “Blue Man Group cannot be explained; it can only be experienced.” But in an attempt to explain the show, for anyone who is unfamiliar, Blue Man Group combines theatrical performance with music, comedy, large props and paint (there’s usually a ‘poncho section’ at most shows). The actors do not sing or speak, making the show universal, a nice tie-in to the togetherness theme.

“We don’t have a script, we have a destination,” said Forster. “The show is always different. It’s a live event un-folding in real-time.”

Forster said the actors feed off of audience energy, each show being different, to determine the performance’s course. When possible, the actors even like to take in the city before a performance to get a feel of the area — usually without the makeup.

The show’s open-ended format not only brings audiences back again, but creates a performer’s paradise, where the stage is merely a playground.

“I like the fact that the show has no separation between us and the audience,” Forster said. “We’re staring at you guys and going out in the audience and making real connections. We want people to come away thinking they were a part of something with other people. You don’t get to do that anywhere else.”
The actors also adapt shows according to the venue. No matter the size, performances do not lack dynamics.

“Smaller venues are actually pretty nice and you don’t lose any content,” Forster said. “They really fill up with sound and sort of make it easier to energize the audience.”
“I’ve been struck by a lot of the towns on the tour so far,” Forster said. “Small towns like Duluth, Minn. — you don’t expect much response because the towns are small and isolated. But we were received with so much enthusiasm and warmth. It was a highlight of the tour.”

BLUE MAN GROUP
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 4, 5 & 6
WHERE: Saenger Theatre, 118 S. Palafox
COST: $58-$78
DETAILS: pensacolasaenger.com or blueman.com