Blue Man Group brings fast-paced show to Wharton starting Friday

When The Blue Man Group started touring in 1991, many thought this bizarre performing troupe made up of three men whose faces are totally covered in wet, cobalt blue makeup would be a short-lived fad.

But here we are in 2023 and the BMG is a worldwide phenomenon. There are standing shows in Boston, New York, Las Vegas and Chicago, with a national touring company and a world touring company.  Several years ago, they were bought out by Cirque du Soleil.

The Blue Man Group is performing at the Wharton Center Jan. 20-22.
The Blue Man Group is performing at the Wharton Center Jan. 20-22.

Starting tonight, their high energy, unpredictable show will be at Wharton Center for a five-show run.

Mike Brown has been a Blue Man for about 20 years, and he loves it.

“It’s a strange experience, being on stage as a Blue Man. I don’t have to learn lines and dialogue because the blue men are silent," Brown said. "My dialogue is with my imagination, which adds to my creativity.  There is an arc or a template to the show, but things change every night.”

The show has the feeling of a rock concert – a loud, fast-paced party environment. Brown calls it a rock-and-roll theater experience.

He said, “Although we don’t speak, it is not mime.  It is physical performance and it is really exhausting, but every show is fun for me.  We often do two shows in one day (which they will do in East Lansing) which I still enjoy, but we’ve also done three in one day, which is too much.”

Brown says the longevity and success of the BMG is due to the mystery and allure of the show.

“You find your inner child through our joy and exuberance," he said. "It’s like we’re finding a secret. We look like three bald alien-like creatures.  It’s all curious.”

Each BMG show has three men, all of similar height and physique, as well as musicians. All blue men must be between 5’10” and 6’2”. Brown says, “We must have an athletic build. It’s a stamina and endurance test every night and we do 4-6 shows a week.”

The first question Brown is always asked is to describe the iconic and weird make-up the men use.

“It’s all a mystery.  We first put on a bald cap over our head and ears.  After the cap, tons of greasepaint is applied and it will never dry.  It’s really icky but I’m used to it now," he said. "It takes about as much time to apply as it does to remove it.  We use towels, water and mineral oil to take the stuff off.”

Brown grew up in Newport News, Virginia, where he was a punk rock drummer. After high school he went to Old Dominion University as a theater major and did classical acting, lighting design and scenic design. He was about to go to New York to seek his fortune, but something got in the way.

In 1998, Brown saw his first Blue Man Group concert and loved it.

He joined the group as a roadie in 2003 and then auditioned to be on stage.

“The audition started out with just drumming," he said. "After you passed that, there was the acting. They really watched your eyes, since everything is wordless and improvised. I was in a small room with the casting director and they wanted to see the range of emotion with my eyes.”

Brown claims many in their typical audience are repeat customers. “We get a lot of love from the audience. We interact with them and they respond with lots of noise.” 


BLUE MAN GROUP: Still Blue, the Rest is All New

  • Wharton Center Great Hall

  • Five Shows: 8 p.m. Jan 20; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday; 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday

  • Tickets: From $39, students $19., 517-432-2000

This article originally appeared on Lansing State Journal: Blue Man Group brings fast-paced show to Wharton starting Friday