On Stage: Blue Man Group comes to Kimmel

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Blue Man Group

Back in the late 1960s when a lot of British bands were playing songs by blues masters such as Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson, a question frequently asked was “Can white men sing the blues?”

In 1968, a British music group called the Bonzo Dog Band countered with a song called “Can blue men sing the whites?”

Years later, there was promise of an answer to the Bonzos’ question when Blue Man Group came onto the music scene.

But the question remains unanswered because the Blue Man Group has made music but never sung. Actually, the Blue Man Group’s silence goes even deeper.

One of the facts about the music ensemble never changes — “Blue man never speaks.”

From December 27-31, the Kimmel Cultural Campus (250 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, www.kimmelculturalcampus.org) is presenting the National Tour of “Blue Man Group” at the Miller Theater (formerly the Merriam Theater).

In addition to the national tour, Blue Man Group has theater shows on a permanent basis in a number of cities around the world, including Berlin, New York, Boston, Chicago, and Las Vegas.

All of the various Blue Man Group performances feature trio of humanoid characters called Blue Men. The music is played by actor-musicians who all wear bald caps and uniform blue makeup and, as a trio, become Blue Man.

It takes about an hour to get ready and about a half hour getting back after the show. The longest part is putting on the cap and gluing it to the face. The color they paint on their faces is a special blue color that was created exclusively for the Blue Man.

The Blue Man character has certain characteristics. Every actor who plays Blue Man understands this. There is a script to the show but no dialogue. It’s written in a very different way.

One of the Blue Man performers on this tour is Josh Wills.

“The tour has been going since 2019,” said Wills, during a phone interview Tuesday from his home in New York.

“We’ve been off for the holidays for a little over a week. Our last stop was Alaska. We were in Anchorage and got 48 inches of snow.

“The tour was out for a while and then the pandemic hit, and everything shut down. We re-teched the show in February in Syracuse.

“I’m the only new tour person. The other three are part of the original four. One stepped off in September and I took over.

“They have Blue Men all over and we just get placed when something pops up. I usually sit don in shows in New York and Las Vegas.

“I was in the New York production in September. When I joined the tour, the guy I replaced took my place in New York.”

New York was where Wills and BMG first came together.

“I joined five years ago when I was living in New York,” said Wills. “Blue Man Group does all their training in New York. I got a random audition posting and it went from there.

“You start with one role. Eventually, it’s expanded to where you know all three – right, center, left. We do change it up in the new show — synths, perk, video.”

With this show, fans can enjoy an up-close and personal look at the guys who are painted from head to toe in cobalt blue and the musicians behind them. The theatrical tour features classic Blue Man moments as well as brand new content – with a lot of audience interaction.

“Every two or three years, we do a major change,” said Artistic Director Michael “Puck” Quinn. “The Blue Man Group show initially started with one piece and then two pieces. It took about a year-and-a-half to put the first show together. When the show first opened in New York, we needed an hour-and-a-half and we only had 40 minutes. So, we kept rewriting and reworking material.

“We really don’t make a new show. Whatever is happening now is just a continuation of what went before. Why open a new show when we can keep adding to and changing this show? If there are pieces that are timely that become no longer relevant, then we just remove them from the show and put in something new.”

Some things change and some remain the same.

“The show has changed drastically since 2019,” said Wills. “We keep rearranging it. We’ve added some new things and taken some things out. We’ve kept stuff that was strong and then added new things that work well.

“There is a new piece with a lot of new instruments that have never been seen before. And there is new audience interaction.

“We do perform the classics. We’re going to have the paint drums. That’s classic Blue Man. And, of course, there is Drumbone. It’s definitely a must. When we come out with Drumbone, people freak out. Audiences ger super-excited about the show.”

Video link for “Blue Man Group” at the Miller Theater — https://youtu.be/VNRgyG1QnZY.

“Blue Man Group” will run from December 27-31 at the Miller Theater.

Ticket prices start at $39.

Philadelphia Ballet

If you feel really ambitious and want to enjoy a full day of enjoying top-flight entertainment while never leaving the 200 block of South Broad Street in Center City Philadelphia, you could do a twin bill featuring Blue Man Group in the evening and the Philadelphia Ballet’s annual production of “George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker” in the afternoon.

On December 27 and 28, there are matinee performances of “The Nutcracker” at noon at the Academy of Music and performances of Blue Man Group at 7:30 p.m.

The Philadelphia Ballet’s annual production of “George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker” is one of the most cherished—and longest running—family holiday traditions for families in the region.

For many, a visit to Philadelphia to enjoy the lavish presentation by the world-famous Philadelphia Ballet is an integral part of the holiday season.

This year’s production, which is running now through December 28 at the Academy of Music (Broad and Locust streets, Philadelphia, 215-893-1999, www.philadelphiaballet.org), is in the fifth decade of staging of the classic ballet.

The ballet is based on E.T.A. Hoffman’s tale “The Nutcracker and The Mouse King” and set to a score by Peter Ilych Tchaikovsky.

Featuring lively dances, colorful costumes and elaborate sets, “The Nutcracker” is a production that appeals to audiences of all ages. The original version of the timeless classic was first presented in Saint Petersburg, Russia in 1892.

The ballet is performed under the guidance of artistic director Angel Corella. The ballet is based on the choreography of George Balanchine.

Born in Madrid, Spain, Corella joined American Ballet Theatre in 1995 and was quickly promoted to principal dancer. In his 17-year career with ABT, he established himself as one of the greatest male dancers of his time.

Corella has also appeared as a guest artist with the Royal Ballet in London, the Kirov Ballet in Russia, and New York City Ballet. From 2008-2014, he served as director for his own company, the Barcelona Ballet.

“I was born in Spain and there is not a tradition of ‘The Nutcracker’ in that country,” said Corella.

“The first time I danced in the ballet was with the American Ballet Theater when I was 19. I thought it was the most beautiful ballet I had ever seen.

“I still feel that way. Mr. Balanchine said dancers are showing the music. The dancers make the music visible.

“The challenge is to keep it fresh. But no-one would dare to change the choreography.”

Balanchine’s choreography plays a major role in the Philadelphia Ballet’s annual production of “The Nutcracker.” The company has been doing both acts by Balanchine for the last 30 years.

George Balanchine, who was named Giorgi Balanchivadze when he was born in Russia in 1904, was one of the last century’s most celebrated choreographers.

He was a primary developer of ballet in the United States in his position as co-founder and ballet master of New York City Ballet. Balanchine created his version of “The Nutcracker” for the New York City Ballet in 1955.

The Philadelphia Ballet’s production of the ballet features more than 100 performers and has an annual audience attendance of more than 50,000. The company’s production is big, colorful and elaborate. And, it is staged in one of the most beautiful performance halls in the country.

The version of “The Nutcracker” performed by the Philadelphia Ballet features everything audiences associate with the timeless ballet—a cast of 19th-century families celebrating Christmas Eve, a little girl’s dream of her Nutcracker Prince, the Prince’s toy soldiers battling a fleet of mice led by the Mouse King and the crowd-pleasing second act of dances in the land of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

“Right now, we’re still doing Balanchine’s ‘Nutcracker’ because it works,” said Corella. “Balanchine’s ‘The Nutcracker’ is one of the best in the world.

“The whole process makes it feel like it’s Christmas. There is hot chocolate. It’s snowing outside. The whole family is there and time seems to stop. It goes back to a certain place and time that everyone seems to recognize—being able to re-connect and share.”

Video link for Philadelphia Ballet’s “George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker” – https://youtu.be/ypfQQ2duYS0.

Ticket prices start at $25.

People’s Light

People’s Light (39 Conestoga Road, Malvern, peopleslight.org) is presenting “Alice in Wonderland: A Musical Panto,” which is running now through January 1, 2023.

Each year, the People’s Light holiday panto transforms a beloved children’s story into a musical extravaganza filled with outrageous characters, toe-tapping original music, slapstick comedy, and topical humor for both kids and adults.

The beloved holiday tradition returns to People’s Light with the world premiere of “Alice in Wonderland: A Musical Panto.” The show, which is directed by Bill Fennelly, features book by Jennifer Childs and music and lyrics by Alex Bechtel.

People’s Light has adapted the theatrical form of British pantomime into its own unique brand of holiday hilarity. Audiences of all ages gather to partake in the songs, dances, topical jokes, and jovial camaraderie of this longstanding tradition.

The People’s Light panto is entertainment for the entire family, and the audience is part of the action.

The show at People’s Light will through January 1. Ticket prices start at $47.

1812 Productions (1812productions.org) is dedicated to creating theatrical works of comedy and comedic works of theater that explore and celebrate our sense of community, our history, and our humanity.

1812 Productions was founded in 1997 by Jennifer Childs and Peter Pryor, two long-time friends and artistic collaborators, with a dedication to comedy, theater, and Philadelphia artists.

1812 Productions is the only professional theater company in the country dedicated to comedy and was the recipient of an honorary citation from the City of Philadelphia for outstanding work and commitment to the Philadelphia arts community.

This weekend, 1812 Productions is presenting their popular political satire, “THIS IS THE WEEK THAT IS.”

A celebrated part of the Philadelphia theatre season for the past 17 years, the show delivers sharp satire and content that changes with the headlines. This year’s production will run now through December 31 at Plays & Players Theatre, which is located at 1714 Delancey Place in Philadelphia.

“The first act is mostly songs and sketches,” said Childs. “They are evergreen sketches that look back on 2022.  There are 2022 versions of holiday classics such as ‘A White Christmas’ and ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ The second half features weekly – and sometimes daily – changes.”

Show times are December 22 at 7 p.m. and December 29 at 7 p.m.

Ticket prices are $40-$45. Select performances are mask-required.

Now through December 23, The Candlelight Theatre (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, www.candlelighttheatredelaware.org) is presenting “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas.”

The successful song-and-dance act of army buddies Bob Wallace and Phil Davis follow a duo of singing sisters en route to their Christmas show at a Vermont lodge, which just happens to be owned by Bob and Phil’s former army commander. Filled with laughter, romance, spectacular dance numbers and the unforgettable songs of Irving Berlin, it’s clear to see why this is a holiday favorite for the whole family.

The American Music Theatre (2425 Lincoln Highway East, Lancaster, www.AMTshows.com) is presenting its annual Christmas production “The 2022 Christmas Show: Home for the Holidays” now through December 30.

This live, original musical experience features a new cast delivering the same high-quality, Broadway-caliber performances as in years past – and it all begins the moment you arrive!

Inspired by the warm, cherished memories of family Christmases spent together with loved ones, “Home for the Holidays” opens on the joyous gathering of family and friends who celebrate with a rich tapestry of song, dance, and holiday traditions. Next, we take you to Santa’s Candy Factory where you’ll be transported to a dream world of bright colors and Candy Elves! Finally, you’ll join us at a “midnight” candlelight service for some songs of worship, traditional carols, and the powerful, harmony-filled rendition of “O Holy Night.”

Ticket prices start at $23.

The Living Room & Cricket Cafe (35 Ardmore Ave, Ardmore, livingroomardmore.com) will present Vahe Sarkission, Joe Mass and an all star band on December 23.

On December 23, Jamey’s House of Music (32 South Lansdowne Avenue, Lansdowne, 215-477-9985, www.jameyshouseofmusic.com) will present “Lisa Chavous Please Come Home for Christmas Blues Concert.”

The show at Jamey’s on December 23 will start at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $20 advance and $25 at the door.

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295, http://www.kennettflash.org) is hosting Oz Noy, Dennis Chambers and Jimmy Haslip.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, www.ardmoremusic.com) will present Nick Perri and Walt Lafti on December 22 and Beru Revue on December 23.

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