Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Cheesehead and all, cheers for Blue Man Group

Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Cheesehead and all, cheers for Blue Man Group

The famed super-cool show is playing at the Weidner Center.
A Blue Man in Green Bay
A Blue Man in Green Bay

GREEN BAY, Wis., (WFRV) – The most impressive thing about Monday night’s performance by Blue Man Group had to do with the Green Bay Packers. First, one blue man put on headwear reminiscent of the solar system. The next Blue Man put on headwear that looked like a golden lobster. (Yes, the pieces were bizarre). Then, the last Blue Man hauled out a cheesehead. BIG CHEER. It was a cheer worthy of the Packers. The Blue Man played with the audience. Each time he offered a glimpse of the cheesehead, up came a cheer.

Such Packers references have happened exactly one zillion times in shows. This one was different. It came in a show by the super-cool Blue Man Group, known all over for a generation now for putting on involving experiences.

Monday’s spectacular show (5 stars out of 5) started a run through Wednesday, Oct. 23, at the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

Blue Man Group is… whew – a bunch of things in an extremely sophisticated, technologically driven exhibition of comical performance skills that are scripted and spontaneous at the same time. In short, Blue Man Group = fun.

One of the most difficult sequences has to do with performance art. One Blue Man tosses objects we are led to believe are marshmallows. Colored ones are tossed into the mouth of another Blue Man on one side of the stage. After each catch, he spews a color onto a painting canvas, eventually creating a modernistic work of art. White “marshmallows” are tossed, even farther, to the Blue Man on the other side of the stage. They are tossed one after the other, the other, the other, the other, the other until he has about 30 (really!) in his mouth. Monday’s bit included one miss. But, holy cow, catching one would be an accomplishment for one normal human being. The tosser and tossee were amazing. And so was the band, which provided the right little musical bit to what was going on with the tosses. The Blue Man with the mouth full eventually creates “a work of art” onto which he places a $5,000 price tag.

The Blue Men play music on PVC pipes and drums. All this comes with splashy light shows or splashing of paint – or sometimes both. Behind the Blue Man trio, a four-man band plays madly.

Another difficult sequence – because of the unknowns of working with a stranger – has to do with someone from the audience. Monday night, a young woman was brought up on stage for a skit that was akin to being a romantic dinner. She – when she wasn’t laughing – mimed the moves and prompts of the three Blue Men. The scene was a lesson, sort of, in communication. A body movement, a glance, an angle of the head can create a response. It was interesting. It was funny. Funny what comedy consists of sometimes.

There’s lots more in the hour and three quarters.

One thing that’s apparent is this production is different than the one of, say, 10 years ago. Technological advances have been blended in – with comical twists.

THE VENUE: Cofrin Family Hall is one of three performance spaces within the Edward W. Weidner Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. At its maximum capacity setup (as for Blue Man Group), the hall seats 2,021 in its three levels of maple-and-burgundy seats. Opened Jan. 15, 1993, the hall was built to adapt to the needs of orchestra concerts, operas, musicals, plays and organ, band and choral concerts – or for techno-theatrical blitzes like Blue Man Group.

THE PERSON: Edward W. Weidner (1921-2007) was the founding chancellor of UWGB. His interests ranged from academia to birding to sports. Building projects were in his blood, and he guided the designing of the Weidner Center, so named from early on in construction.

You may email me at warren.gerds@wearegreenbay.com. Watch for my on-air features on WFRV at 6:45 p.m. Thursdays and every other Sunday between 6 and 8 a.m. (usually around 7:45 a.m.)

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