In an unlikely part of the city, not far from Old Town Chicago, lives the kind of theatre I love – small capacity, simplistic auditorium, and cracking acoustics.
I say unlikely because its appearance is sudden amongst the clothing stores, tequila bar and, the most beloved of American buildings, the pharmacies. For the home of the Blue Man Group (read: one of the many residencies), you might have thought that there would be more of ruckus.
When I first saw them, I was fourteen and bewildered, in a compact Off Broadway venue in New York. I was still in a state of shock over Laidig Snr announcing “Happy birthday, we’re going to New York”, so to be faced with three expressionless blue aliens wasn’t helping. The energy of that night can only be akin to that of an incredible gig set, later buzzing into the night.
Perhaps I’m chasing the dragon, but I have never seen another production like #1 (and this night was #3). Maybe it was the chatter from the Swiss family behind us, or the noisy school trip deserving a directed programme-aeroplane in the eye or two. Something about this night’s trio didn’t initially command the stage. For a show without words, you must rely on physicality and timing, nothing short of immaculate. When it wavered it was noticeable. And I’m pretty sure I saw one of them smirk.
BMG are a gig with clowning, vaudeville without words. And phenomenal music. In spite of an eager audience, however, it took until the last thirty minutes to gain any consistent momentum. Additionally, this venue was that bit too big and ill-managed in several respects. The show was played to the middle of the three sections of the auditorium; anywhere else, and you were more voyeur than participant.
FOR THE FUTURE: when using a live camera in the auditorium…
If there are empty seats, move people into them before the show starts.
No one wants to see empty seats on the screen.
« If you’re going to use a plant, maybe train them to not look so blindingly obvious?
The infamous audience-member-upside-down-canvas routine is not meant to take a short amount of time. You watch the seemingly live footage, another act happens, and the person miraculously appears onstage. This segment was lucky if it took ten minutes, with shoddy continuity – the plant’s overalls were dry for one. May as well have just said “look what we did earlier!”
For the love of continuity, use the same cast members – not all blue people look alike!
In part of the iPhone segment, there was a completely different cast member on the damn screen. Yes, you’re all blue, but you have these things called “features”.
Back in New York, having things thrown at you, the performers clambering over the audience, or being smothered with paper from every direction were all what made the performance so electric – the blue aliens were everywhere, and it was terrifying.
Reduced Shakespeare, Cirque du Soleil – many troupes reproduce the routines that gave them initial notoriety. With company residencies across the globe, I can only hope there is a better mesh of classic and new material, and that other performers are trained to savour the night, not rush through it like Chicago.