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Three's colorful company

Published December 6, 2011 8:41 am

Performance theater • Blue Man Group bring performance-art insanity to Kingsbury Hall.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The forehead of Kirk Massey, one of three Blue Men since 2005, is no stranger to the abrasive feel of ripping off glue whenever he takes his skintight blue cap off for the night.

"The wear and tear is something else after a while," he said. "But if that's all I have to put up with for a life of playing music and acting — something I've always wanted to do — I figure I'm doing pretty well."

Massey is a Blue Man, who with his two anonymous partners gets to enact performance art mayhem on stage. That is, he gets to make a gourmet meal out of Twinkies, throw marshmallows in his colleagues' mouths, operate wind machines like strategic weapons and otherwise drum to primal rhythms like idiots on stage.

Originally formed 1987 by Matt Goldman, Phil Stanton and Chris Wink, Blue Man Group combined street theater, liberal parts of mime, and the spark of childlike innocence and naiveté to concoct a rollicking show of explosive live performance. Over the years Blue Man has become a performance art franchise brand name. And it is performed without words, with some fans calling it one of the few shows that speaks for itself.

The trio, plus a full-dress ensemble of musicians and stage hands, come to Salt Lake City's Kingsbury Hall for almost a week's worth of shows, Dec. 6-11.

With Goldman, Stanton and Wink having hung up their blue caps long ago, Massey is only too glad to fill one of the three most coveted spots in high-energy performance theater. Or, would that be the only high-energy performance theater to speak of?

"There's nothing else like it," Massey asserts. "I've always liked acting without words, because it lets the eyes do all that talking. It's a very different kind of acting, and more demanding. If someone's lying, you can almost always tell by looking in their eyes. So the acting for this show has to be genuine at every level, otherwise your audience won't be convinced."

Most nights they are, said Jeff Wright, a musician with Blue Man Group. His specialty is the drum set and hanging bass drum, with cymbals and shakers at the ready.

It's a truism that no two shows in all of theater or live performance are the same. Where Blue Man Group is concerned, however, the differences from night-to-night are more extreme than, say, a touring production of "Les Misérables." This year's touring show features a signature design, including high-resolution image screens and plenty of lights. New, and sized more intimately for smaller theaters on tour, is a proscenium-sized LED curtain.

It seems no accident that the show resonates with crowds more every year, as the Internet and social networking tools increase the velocity of our connections at an even more frantic pace. It's refreshing, too, to see three grown men doused in day-glow blue view technology with the wonderment of children seeing the world for the first time.

"So much can change from night to night," Wright said by phone from Santa Barbara. "You really have to be on your toes, responding to the audiences, the cast, numerous stage cues, and at the same time communicate with the band. It's a bit like scoring a film."

But ever curious and primal all the same. Wright said he's broken up to eight drum sticks in a night's performance, depending on the show's tempo and the quality of his sticks.

bfulton@sltrib.com

Twitter:@Artsalt

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Blue Man Group

When • Dec. 6-11, Tuesdays-Thursdays, 7:30 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 and 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 and 6:30 p.m.

Where • Kingsbury Hall, 1395 E. Presidents Circle, Salt Lake City.

Info • $32.50-$57.50. Call 801-581-7100, or 801-703-2057 for groups of 15 or more, or visit http://www.kingtix.com or http://www.blueman.com or http://www.magicspace.net for more information.

Fun fact • Blue Man drummer Jeff Wright thinks that Keith Moon, the late drummer for The Who, would be a perfect fit for a Blue Man Group musician. "He's got that spark of wild insanity that everyone loves in a drummer," Wright said. "I'm sure Neil Peart [drummer for Rush] could do it too. His is a different style, but I'm sure he could hang."