story by Cyd King
FORT SMITH — The popularity of the high-energy Blue Man Group was perhaps never as evident to locals as it was in September of 2010. A trio of the blue-faced entertainers showed up on the sideline of the Razorbacks’ season-opener in Fayetteville and garnered an emphatic roar from the crowd as they helped call the Hogs.
Blue Man Group is taking on another season-opener as it kicks off University of Arkansas at Fort Smith’s Season of Entertainment 32 at 7:30 p.m. Saturday (Sept. 15) and 2:30 p.m. Sunday (Sept. 16) at the Arkansas Best Performing Arts Center. This is the group’s first time in Fort Smith.
As its owners attest, Blue Man Group is more an organization than a theatrical troupe. Founded by Chris Wink, Matt Goldman and Phil Stanton, the group produces theatrical shows and concerts blending experimental music, comedy and multimedia, as well as recorded music and scores for film and television. One might say it's a dynasty.
The actor-musicians tuck their hair — however long or short — under bald caps and use a uniform color of blue to cover their heads, faces and any other body parts that show during their performances (The group’s color is even trademarked as “Blue Man Blue”). Members create emotion during performances with just the whites of their eyes — no easy feat.
Blue Man Kirk Massey, a member of the organization but not one who will be performing in Fort Smith, has been “blue” since 2005. He recently provided some insight into what it’s like to be a part of such a unique group.
“We’re a family. Once you’re in, you’re in. Even though people leave, they all stay in touch come back and cover for those who take vacations or whatever,” says Massey, 29, who has performed around the globe as a part of Blue Man Group’s “How to be a Megastar” World Tour. He’s full-time in Blue Man Group’s Orlando production when not on tour. Orlando’s his home base, but it doesn’t seem as though he’s there much. He’s spent much of the past 13 months on the road with an occasional week off.
At first glance of a Blue Man, questions arise about all that blue paint and what it does to a guy’s complexion. How do they keep it from running when they’re running around and sweating onstage under bright lights? And how do you get it off?
Massey answers, respectively:
“We just take care of our skin the best we can when we’re not in the show.”
“It’s grease paint. It’s pretty thick. It pretty much soaks up watever liquid interacts with it.”
“It takes about 30 minutes to get it off.”
He was one of those who came to Fayetteville in 2010 to help launch the most recent national tour.
“Arkansas crowds have been outstanding, which is why we keep coming back there,” he said.
Fans and first-timers attending the Fort Smith show can expect 30-40% new content — new songs, all written in-house by members of the organization. The classic Blue Man pieces have received a facelift, and the famous toilet paper grand finale has been tweaked with a beach ball rave-like treatment.
“It’s a big crazy kind of dance party,” Massey explained. “It brings everybody to their feet.”
Shows generally run an hour and 40 minutes with no intermission — no need to let the adrenaline rush settle.
“The show is definitely an art. We’re continuously moving; it’s pretty amped up. It flies by,” Massey said.
Tickets to this weekend’s shows are $55 and $52. Call (479) 788-7300 or visit the website.