Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
(Courtesy photo) Blue Man Group performing its touring show.
And the Blue Man’s beat goes on with SLC shows
Stage » Speechless characters bring their wonder, and tribal beats, back to Utah.
First Published Mar 28 2014 08:15 am • Last Updated Mar 31 2014 09:06 am

Jesse Nolan got his first drum set when he was 2, thanks to a music- and theater-loving aunt. At 12, the young drummer saw his first Blue Man Group show in New York City. "My mind was boggled," Nolan recalls. "I thought the Blue Men characters were cool, but I thought: ‘Wow. A whole show of drummers.’"

Nolan went on to earn degrees in music education and jazz at Indiana University, and to split time between performing in touring Broadway shows and teaching music in public schools. "My love affair with the Blue Man Group started 20 years ago, and I feel really lucky to be traveling with the show," says Nolan, 32, the musical director and percussionist for the group’s touring show, which returns to Kingsbury Hall on the University of Utah campus April 1-6.

At a glance

The Blue Man Group plays Kingsbury Hall

The show, featuring the three bald, blue characters who drum PVC pipes to spectacular lighting effects, performs an eight-show run in Salt Lake City.

When » April 1-April 6; Tuesday-Thursday, 7:30 p.m.; Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday, 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 and 6:30 p.m.

Where » Kingsbury Hall, 1395 E. Presidents Circle, University of Utah campus, Salt Lake City

Tickets » $32.50-$64.50, weekdays; $54.50-$69.50 weekends; at 801-581-7100 or kingsburyhall.utah.edu.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

While in town, Nolan will lead a workshop for music students at the Salt Lake Arts Academy. "We are ready to groove Blue Man style," says Judson S. Armstrong, the school’s music director.

The Blue Man Group, featuring three speechless humanoid bald characters in blue grease paint, began as a small performance art piece in New York City in 1987. Over the years, the show exploded into a multi-media theatrical spectacle, yet still features the trio of speechless characters who drum on unusual instruments made out of PVC pipes.

The show’s themes play upon technology and information overload, while the Blue Man characters are naive outsiders who connect with audiences through their innocence and curiosity. "The Blue Man wants to look at you," Nolan says. "One of the ideas of the Blue Man character is he’s always exploring, he’s learning, he’s hungry to test things, to experience the world."

Blue Man has translated performance art into a pop-culture phenomenon: Between six city-based and touring shows, some 60,000 people could attend a Blue Man Group show on any given day.

The show features unique instruments, such as a Drumbone, a sliding PVC pipe that opens and closes to change pitch. The Blue Man’s on-stage band features two percussionists and two string players, who play the Chapman stick, a form of electric guitar, and the electronic zither.

Even the way the score draws upon the drums is different. Instead of rock’s timekeeping back beat, Blue Man songs focus on the tom-toms, with the pulsating, churning grooves of a more tribal sound. In many numbers, the drum rhythms of the Blue Man characters and the band become the melody, instead of the rhythm.

That means the musicians are required to play the show drawing upon the improvisational skills of jazz. "Our job as musicians is to play what we see," Nolan says. "We have to be very on the ball, watching all the time."

Brian Tavener, 31, a native of North Carolina, has been playing one of the Blue Man characters for 6 1/2 years, in the Boston show and on the national tour.


story continues below
story continues below

"Affectionately and eloquently, we call them "Left," "Center" and "Right" amongst ourselves," he said of the alternating roles. "The goal is to be three as one. If we do our job right, if the three of us are on, we are moving as a pack, and it’s almost animalistic. This is definitely a brotherly love job."

With their performances, the actors hope to share that feeling of brotherly love. The show is centered on the idea that Blue Man characters enter the human realm and play around with technology. Along the way, they remind the audience that technology is secondary to your connections to the people sitting beside you.

For the actors, one of the challenges is learning how to tell a story using both physical movement and stillness, while energetically playing a specific style of accented 16-note drumming. When the characters interact with audiences, they learn to "throw the ball" to another performer, to spread the energy in the theater, with something as simple as a quick eye movement.

"It’s impossible for a child not to like the show," Tavener says, "but seeing the 60-year-old-grandmother having a blast is my favorite part."

ellenf@sltrib.com

facebook.com/ellen.weist



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.