Blue Man Group - Universal Orlando - 6/8/07

Associated parks:
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Friday, June 8, 2007 11:47 PM
So here I am... the third theatrical show and sixth Blue Man Group show overall. I was pretty nuts about the Megastar tour, though less enthusiastic about it without Tracy Bonham, and have such a mixed feeling about the stage shows. Still, at $55 a ticket, I think it's a steal for Orlando.

The Sharp Aquos Theater is actually one of the former Nickelodeon sound stages at Universal Studios. With no balcony, it's a pretty flexible space to build something like this, and it's surprisingly comfortable and acoustically not entirely offensive. The ceiling has no treatment at all, and I seem to recall the motorized lighting grid as being something they talked about on the Nick tour way back in 1990. If they got to reuse that, good for them. Most of the guts and electrical work was hidden by hanging fabric, which probably helped with the sound. The fun part about the restrooms is the PVC and chorus composition singing the word "bathroom!" over and over again. I giggled while peeing.

Totally random thing: Two guys sit next to us, one of whom is the president of Universal Orlando. The other guy his godson or something like that. What we learn about this is that the production is put on by a jointly owned company, "Uni Man" or something like that. Essentially, this company is licensed by BMG, the New York-based company, to do the show. I think that perhaps the founders made some concessions in this arrangement, since they were seating people mid-show, selling beer stadium style before the show, etc. Simply put, it's not quite the theatrical experience, and that's OK since there are a lot of kids and families.

The stage is loosely based on the Las Vegas show, with smaller lofts for the band and less room for the central video screen. They still manage to use it all as projection surfaces. The band is scaled back as well, with one less guitar/string player and one less percussionist, I think (saw Vegas last about a year ago, so I may be wrong).

If you've seen the Vegas show at The Venetian, you've mostly seen this show. Some of the "big" moments have been eliminated (the airplane gag) and some have been added (the strange ear thing). Drumbone, the Cap'n Crunch and Twinkie things, the paint and marshmallow toss, the three card decks, etc., are all there. The guy sitting next to us said that one guy is a "veteran" from another show, while the other two are new. They did an outstanding job overall, and there were only a couple of technical cues that were missed or wrong. I was particularly impressed with how they dealt with some surprises from their Twinkie dinner volunteer.

When I thought about it, the absence of "Rods and Cones" is probably because of the smaller band, which when I listen to it has two string parts or three, though I don't know which parts. They still had a guy playing the chapman stick and guitar or whatever that string thingy is that sounds like a synth, but I count three string parts in the recording. Instead, they do this other neat thing about animation using what I only assume is a see-through LCD or something, where they smear shaving cream. Combined with projected images, they work into the bit with the tribal dancing zoetrope things. Not quite the moment that "Rods and Cones" creates, but still very cool.

One of the other signature pieces from Vegas is the "Utne Wire Man" bit. Instead of building with the various wire images on the screen, the focal point from the beginning is the Blue Men with their LED signs. I'm not as fond of this because it gets almost too distracting from the music. However, what more than makes up for it is how they combine the stage version with the one they used on the Megastar tour, complete with the five air poles and the "Stomp your feet/clap your hands" samples. They really quite flawlessly combined the two versions of the song and made something even better. Well done.

I forget the name of the song they do when they take the guy backstage and show video of him being swung around upside down (video looked awfully familiar ;)), but the kick of the giant bass drum was insane. You could feel it in your chest. Really great thump!

The other two big musical pieces are "PVC IV" and "Chant Jam." The arrangement on "PVC" is a little different, though I couldn't put my finger on why exactly at the time. "Chant Jam" is pretty spot on and like speed in Blue Man terms. That's a song that benefits from an extra drummer, but it still sounded very amazing, and fit very well into the paper finale.

The paper finale is insane as ever, though they're using a weak mix of "I Feel Love" instead of the KLF song used in Vegas. I don't think it's as strong an ending. The energy in the theater, however, was far and way higher because of the kids. What kid wouldn't want to be a part of a mess like that?

They actually do a short encore after that, with more paint on the drums, and then disappear into a projection of DNA strands. Definitely a better way to end, kind of easing you out the way they eased you in.

There was a kid there wearing a Megastar tour T-shirt as we were leaving, and his dad asked him what he thought of the drumming. He replied it wasn't as good as the other shows. Reminded me of a coaster enthusiast so obsessed that they fail to enjoy what they're obsessed over. Dork.

So here's where I am on my Blue Man Group fan thing. I saw Megastar three times, Vegas twice, and then this one, all since March of last year. This show, with $55 tickets, is a steal. Great value, great family entertainment. All of that said, I think they need to consider a slightly different direction with the stage shows.

In Vegas and Orlando, you're competing with Cirque du Soleil, and on top of that Broadway style shows. With Megastar touring and a half-dozen stage shows, a whole lot of people, probably millions now, have seen Blue Man Group. I understand that there's a certain amount of artistic expression true to the original New York show that they want to maintain, but I think the emotional response and connection is stronger with the touring shows because of the vocal music. Sure, it distracts from the blue guys, but it's something deeper, I think. I think it's time to consider integrating vocal music into the stage show.

I'm sure the purists would think I'm full of crap, but that's how I feel about it. Next time in Vegas, I'll see Phantom again or a Cirque show, but BMG is starting to get very been-there-done-that. I want to see "The Currant" or "Up To The Roof" some more. That's more of a gee-whiz moment for me than eating cereal, even if it's not as funny.

Overall though, I loved the show. It's exactly what Universal needed. The pricing is right, and the sub-1,000 theater is fairly intimate. Selling the show as an upsell to theme park tickets is also a no-brainer. I think they'll enjoy a nice long run there.

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Saturday, June 9, 2007 5:07 PM
Hey Jeff!

Glad to hear it was a great show! Again, you did an awesome job on describing the details. :-)

My husband and I would like to see a BMG show. We were thinking about seeing our first show in Chicago (since it's only 3 hours away). Do you think we should wait to see our first show in Orlando or would Chicago be okay? We were just in Vegas, no plans to go back anytime soon, but we will go back eventually.

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Saturday, June 9, 2007 10:11 PM
I am going out to Disney in September and am trying to convince the family to do this. My question is this: Is this part of the theme park or part of the City Walk? Universal is not part of our plans this trip out and I honestly do not want to add a park to the trip.
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Saturday, June 9, 2007 10:14 PM
Topic "Blue Man Group - Universal Orlando - 6/8/97"

Jeff,

That's pretty cool to hear and all, but I honestly couldn't tell you what I was doing on this day 10 years ago. Probably working at the Dairy Dipper with some annoying Keystone cheerleader girls!

~Rob Willi

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Sunday, June 10, 2007 12:43 AM
1997, man that brings up memmories when The Indians were in first place. Hey wait :)

I saw BMG on Broadway and I’m not sure how much different the others are, but it sounds pretty much like the same thing. For $55 though it might be worth it to check it out again a few years down the road as maybe the price will help the appeal. The Broadway Tickets Ran about $80 I think.

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Sunday, June 10, 2007 5:42 PM
The theater is gated by itself off of City Walk. You can buy tickets independently of park tickets. You'll still have to pay to park at Universal, I assume.

I can't think of anyone who has seen the Chicago show, except maybe Greg. I don't think Mike has because I mentioned coming out there to see it with him.

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Sunday, June 10, 2007 6:57 PM

coasterlover325 said:
Hey Jeff!

Glad to hear it was a great show! Again, you did an awesome job on describing the details. :-)

My husband and I would like to see a BMG show. We were thinking about seeing our first show in Chicago (since it's only 3 hours away). Do you think we should wait to see our first show in Orlando or would Chicago be okay? We were just in Vegas, no plans to go back anytime soon, but we will go back eventually.


I saw the Chicago show in Dec. It's like the NY/Boston show, and shares some material with the Orlando show. You'll see about 80% the same material, but there are new things in the Orlando show (Stomp Your Feet, Ear Dumming, etc). I say go to Chicago just to see the theater lobby!

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007 1:42 PM
^ Thanks for the tip! =)
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Tuesday, June 12, 2007 7:43 PM

Jeff said:I can't think of anyone who has seen the Chicago show, except maybe Greg. I don't think Mike has because I mentioned coming out there to see it with him.

Sadly, nope, and I need to fix that. I've seen the original NYC show (twice, back when that was the ONLY BMG show and it was just "some weird off-Broadway performance art thing nobody had heard of yet"), Vegas (the old Luxor show), and Berlin.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007 8:13 PM
I saw the Chicago show twice, and loved it. Haven't seen any of the others (Missed Universal's opening by 3 weeks) but for what it's worth a high school friend who worked backstage in Chicago said she greatly preferred the Chicago/Boston/NY show to the Vegas show. Sounds like Orlando may be a mix of the 2.
So, definately go see it in Chicago.
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Thursday, June 14, 2007 10:38 AM
I've never seen them and I'll be going on the 23rd. After reading this I am definitely very excited!
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