Blue is the Funniest Color: Experiencing Orlando’s Blue Man Group
When is Orlando mentioned in the same breath as New York, Chicago, and Berlin? When people are talking about the wild and wacky Blue Man Group. The unique ensemble was born in New York City in the 1990s, and has since branched into permanent digs in six cities around the world. Orlando has been one of those places since 2007, hosting eight Blue Man Group performances a week at a custom-built, 1,000-seat theater at Universal CityWalk (6000 Universal Boulevard; 800-BLUEMAN).
Descriptions of the show always seem to include words like “indescribable,” and invariably conclude that “you just have to see it for yourself.” But it’s really not so hard to capture in words. The Blue Man Group production in Orlando is quite simply a musical extravaganza that isn’t a musical, a narrative experience that keeps you on the edge of your seat in spite of having no plot, and a work of clever sophistication that also appeals to children. And somehow audiences all over the world find that it speaks to them—in spite of the fact that not a word is uttered in any language during the performance.
Okay, so maybe the show experience is a little hard to capture in words. And maybe you really should see it for yourself—with its offbeat but ultimately innocent tone, the show has wide appeal, and makes a fun, exhilarating evening weather you’re traveling solo, with a date, or with kids in tow. (Loud noises may make the show unsuitable for tiny children, though.)
Productions vary by city, and also evolve over time, so if you’ve seen a Blue Man show before, chances are there will be something new for you. If you’ve never had a Blue Man experience, then chances are 100% that you’ve never seen anything quite like this. Its closest cousin might be the Broadway show Stomp—both share explosive percussion and non-verbal storytelling. But try to imagine Stomp as staged by three wide-eyed, androgynous man-children turning a futuristic landscape into a burst of color and percussion, and you’re starting to get the idea.
The actors, who manage to convey subtle differences in character using just their eyes and body language, interact with telephones, drums, pipes, balloons, flashlights, and more like they’re encountering them for the first time and trying to figure out what they’re for. They lovingly prepare an elaborate dinner composed entirely of Twinkies with the earnestness of a 4-year-old having a tea party. They beat drums until lava-like fountains of paint spurt upward. They play random notes on an instrument made of PVC pipe until they stumble upon the riff from “Smoke on the Water.” Marshmallows are tossed around, beach balls are dropped into the audience, and odd phrases are projected on video screens, sometimes at a dizzying rate that’s impossible to keep up with.
What’s the connection between these scenes? It’s unclear, but for me, it didn’t matter. The sensation of being slightly over-stimulated, slightly confused, and thoroughly entertained by everyday objects put me back in touch with what it must have been like to be an infant. I didn’t always know what was going on, but I found it easy to be in the moment, enjoying the wave of sound and color enveloping me. (I’ve had this same happy-baffled feeling at the opera, too, but frankly, the Blue Man Group is a lot more fun.)
The Orlando show takes place in the heart of Universal CityWalk at Universal Studios Florida, but it’s not necessary to purchase a park ticket to see the performance—show-only tickets start at $69 for adults.
If you do want to experience a Universal park—and really, why wouldn’t you try to stretch out that big-kid feeling as long as you can—packages are available that combine park entry with a show. One day at either Universal Studios Florida or Universal’s Islands of Adventure plus a show ticket starts at $161 per adult. One-day admission to both parks plus a show starts at $187, and multi-day entrance passes are available, too.
Address: The Blue Man Group, Universal CityWalk, 6000 Universal Blvd. Orlando, Flr. 32819; 800-BLUEMAN (800-258-3626800-258-3626); UniversalOrlando.com/Nightlife/Citywalk-Nightlife.aspx or UniversalOrlando.com/Theme-Park-Tickets/Blue-Man-Group-Tickets.aspx.
Best seats: The theater was custom-built for the Blue Man Group, and sightlines are excellent everywhere. Seats in rows A-L—right in the middle of the theater—are ideally placed for participating in the beach-ball bashing final number.
Dress code: Rows 5 and up: Anything goes. Rows 1-4, though, are the famed “Poncho Zone” where show detritus—paint, mostly—often lands. If you’re seated in these rows, you actually will be issued a poncho. It’s still a good idea to wear clothes that launder easily. (The paint does come right out in the wash.)
Good to know: Don’t come late. You will be gently, but publicly mocked.
Fun Fact: There are no Blue Women in Orlando—yet. A woman did perform for a time as part of the regular cast in Boston, and the Las Vegas version of the show includes a robot character played by female actors. So will we see a woman onstage in Orlando any time soon? It’s hard to say. The show creators say that in spite of the name, they think of the Blue Men as genderless and swear they are open to the idea of more women in the cast. In Orlando, it looks like we’ll have to wait until one of two things happens: Either the Vegas Showbot character gets worked into the Orlando revue, or the strict requirement that Blue Men be between 5-foot-10 and 6-foot-1 is dropped. (Or we get Laura Prepon to audition—a win-win situation if ever I heard one.)
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