Blue Man Group performs at State Farm Center

The blue-painted trio has performed in urban hot spots across the nation and the world, but Thursday night the Blue Man Group decided to pay a visit to Champaign. As the first show of the State Farm Center’s three-part WCIA3 Broadway Series, the Blue Man Group made a two-performance stop Thursday and Friday night during their U.S. National Tour.

The group, established in 1987, performs experimental music mixed with pre-recorded tracks. Although none of the “blue men” speaks throughout the show, they use gestures and body language to display humor and interact with audience members. The performance’s content was not geared toward a certain age group, but rather seemed to target a wide range of ages.

The group has long been praised for their visually stunning performances. On Thursday, Champaign citizens, ranging from young children with their families to senior-citizen couples, along with a smaller group of University students, gathered in the State Farm Center’s auditorium. Despite the heat that had seeped into the arena’s interior, chatter filled the silence and spirits seemed to be high.

Before the show, two digital marquees placed on both sides of the stage displayed scrolling red messages. The source-less messages asked audience members not to “take any selfies” or share “government secrets,” and to please refrain from “sexting your constituency” — an appropriate foreword to the show’s dry humor and high-tech content.

The show seemed to be a hybrid of old and new material. The more traditional, well-known Rock Concert Movement tutorial and marshmallow mouth-stuffing bits were mixed with the blue men’s introduction to the “GiPad,” a gigantic tablet with multitasking, information-overload-centered apps.

Arguably the most thrilling aspect of the show — the element that seems to have made the organization so relevant and successful for over 25 years — is its use of audience participation. The blue men would step out into the crowd and search for participants, drawing laughs from the audience as members received gifts from the blue men, caught marshmallows thrown into their mouths, and even joined the performers on stage. Hand-held cameras were also routinely implemented to zoom-in on crowd members’ faces and to call out “late arrivals.”

Even with all the facetious antics and speechless communication, the show was beautifully strung together by the percussion-driven, ambient music that weaved throughout it. Backed by a full-member percussion band perched in a cage above the stage, the blue men would use numerous pipes, drums and other materials to provide a driving, emotional undertone to the night’s performance, easily creating a euphoric atmosphere throughout most of the show.

The Blue Man Group mastered the art of winning a crowd over, despite having mute performers. With flying sheets of toilet paper and enormous multi-colored balls bouncing over the audience, the night ended in a giant dance party during which audience members, young and old, joined in on the fun.

As the Blue Man Group continues their U.S. National Tour until the end of spring, their technology-based analysis of human interaction will continue to hit smaller towns and cities across the continent.

The State Farm Center’s WCIA3 Broadway Series will continue with performances of Memphis in October and Mamma Mia in December.

Sarah and Emma are juniors in Media. They can be reached at [email protected]