Updated June 23, 2021 - 11:34 am
The Blue Men never speak onstage, their muted portrayals serving as the troupe’s artistic trademark. But they are ready to make some happy noise on the Strip.
BMG’s thunderous pounding of PVC pipe, jangling soundtrack and even the rhythmic munching of Cap’n Crunch was enough to illicit goosebumps Monday afternoon during the show’s first full run-through in 17 months.
The Blue Men shook up their theater at Luxor, while shaking off any rust (which would also be cobalt-blue, naturally) heading to their return to action Thursday night.
“It’s great to be re-introduced into civilization again,” Blue Man Kirk Massey said just before the full rehearsal. He answered a question about his beard, which he’d grown during COVID. There are no bearded Blue Men. “I was unaware of the full run-through today, so apparently, yes, it’s time to shave.”
Blue Man Group is officially the first Cirque du Soleil production to return to the Strip, having been acquired by Cirque in July 2017. The show is set for 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, and at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. Thursdays through Mondays beginning July 1.
The show’s acts will be familiar to anyone who has caught the show over its two decades on the Strip. A Blue Man will still throw marshmallows to his partner some 30 feet across the stage, and create a foot-tall globule of “art” priced at $5,000. They will still spit florescent paint onto a blank canvas, venture into the crowd for an audience member picked for the “feast” of Twinkies onstage.
“There are some changes we’ve made to honor the piece,” Massey said. “We want to honor this idea of trying to have a feast.”
The guys won’t feed each other, as in years past, but will take to the aisles to hand out marshmallows (I still have mine). In one priceless new bit, a Blue Man rubs sanitizer over the bald head of his blue friend.
“The great thing about this show is, it’s vaudevillian in nature,” Massey said. “We’ll keep that. We’re just addressing the changes with audience interaction, but also being mindful of health conditions.”
The show’s return does instill some normalcy to the Strip entertainment climate.
The Blue Men are without question a Las Vegas institution, a kind of three-man Mount Rushmore. BMG premiered at Luxor Theater in February 2000, with founders Chris Wink, Phil Stanton and Matt Goldman in that original lineup. The show then moved to The Venetian in what is now Opaline Theater in 2005, to Lance Burton Theater at Monte Carlo in 2012, and finally back to its customized theater across from Atrium Showroom at Luxor in 2015.
Having been laid off about a year ago to the day, the Blue Man cast and crew were rebuilt about three weeks ago. Among the newcomers to the Vegas cast is Massey, a 16-year blue-hued vet rescued after the show’s Orlando troupe shut down permanently.
Andy Gomez, the show’s music director and a Las Vegas Academy grad, is back. Also returning is Kalen Allmandinger, a 20-year Blue Man who trained in Boston, performed in New York and has been in the Vegas cast for about four years. The full complement of Vegas Blue Men are Allmandinger, Massey, Matt Banks, Josh Berg, Alain Rochefort and Vinicius Masteguim (who returns to the company in July).
The Blue Men’s longevity has become a constant over the troupe’s 34-year history. Thus, there are fewer than 100 performers who have ever performed in the troupe’s five production companies or touring shows. Officials count 72 Blue Men across the country who have either played the role or are still onstage.
“There is a unique type of person who gets involved in this,” said Massey, who was 22 years old when he joined the troupe. “It’s just, there seems to be this characteristic and energy that everybody has. So, even though I haven’t worked directly with everybody here, I feel like, ‘Oh, yeah. I’ve been here before.’”
Allmandinger and his family spent the balance of the shutdown playing games and making face masks.
“Those just kind of flew out the door, so that kept us busy,” Allmandinger said. “All things considered, it was a little scary but we survived.”
Allmandinger kept a grateful attitude when recalling the shutdown.
“I want to be sensitive, obviously, to those had a lot more struggle than we did,” he said. “We stayed healthy, and during lockdown it was kind of of cool to just sort of reset everything and just really dig in as a family, cook all the time and play board games.”
Massey had informed Blue Man officials he would be willing to transfer to Vegas, if the opportunity arose. He got that call from Blue Man Group Resident General Manager Thomas Randall as the city reopened to 100 percent capacity.
“He’s like ‘So, you reached out to us and told us you were interested in coming out here, you know, we just wanted to see it that’s still a thing that you were considering, or …’ “Massey said. “He says, ‘The only catch to this is, if you could be here Monday, that would be great!’ I briefly discussed with my wife, and she was like “Yes, let’s do it!’”
Gomez, who studied jazz at LVA, joined the show as an usher when the production was at The Venetian. He auditioned to be a Blue Man, then a drummer, and finally a string player.
“That string player one stuck, and in 2007 I was hired in the show and have been here ever since,” said Gomez, who plays zither, guitar and Chapman Stick bass while leading the show’s four-piece band. “We’re now going through the social aspect of just getting re-familiarized with each other again, learning how to re-socialize (laughs). Everybody’s dealing with that, so it’s no different for us.”
The musician recalls an old TV show, something the Blue Men themselves might like.
“It’s ‘Twilight Zone’-ish,” Gomez said. “It feels very surreal. I can think back to last September, or last December, and it just feels like a different world. In some ways, it was.”
The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Dr. Miriam Adelson, the majority shareholder of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Las Vegas Sands operates The Venetian.
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at email@example.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.