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[The Kats Report]

The Blue Man Group dumps its Showbot pal for a more streamlined approach

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Blue Man Group recently dropped the Showbot character from the long-running production.
Lindsey Best

A Blue Man does not readily warm to a woman, especially if the woman is a robot. This has been the big blue reveal over the past two and a half years in the Blue Man Group production at Monte Carlo. Unleashed to a great hullabaloo in 2012 was a silvery, busty, dreadlocked entity known as Showbot. She wheeled onstage, in an interloping sort of way, and was met with blue-hued grimaces from the show’s three muted co-stars.

“It was an interesting phenomenon,” says Blue Man Group Creative Director Michael Dahlen. “There was something about that character, and the robots in general, that we weren’t entirely happy with. It had to do with the energy and the arc of the show, how the energy ebbed and confused the audience.”

Showbot seemed to confuse the Blue Men, too. “It seemed like it was going to work better than it did, but we sort of imposed Showbot on the Blue Men,” Dahlen says. “There was not a lot for them to do when she showed up. They just kind of looked at her, and we learned that even though it was a crazy, fun character, that what makes the Blue Men so interesting is just watching them behave.”

So in the latest upgrade to the show, Showbot has been dumped, along with an accompanying piece featuring a pair of assembly-line robots working on a Mini Cooper. “The whole thing just felt disjointed and clunky, but the elements were tied together,” Dahlen says. “It’s like pulling a thread, and when you start to unravel one scene, everything around it unravels. So it was no small task to make these changes.”

The result is not quite an overhaul of a show that has run for 15 years in Las Vegas. Producers have replaced Showbot and her robotic counterparts with an existing piece in which the Blue Men play a PVC-pipe instrument fitted around their bodies. Also returned to the production is the visually dazzling “Brain Drum” segment, which invokes a description of how the human eye is able to discern colors. Rods and cones are displayed brightly across the LED screen as the Blue Men thunder on their PVC suits.

Many updates from the show’s 2012 modification are still in place, including the use of the “GiPad” smartphone effect. The three Blue Men attempt to enter passcodes to activate the devices. One presses a series of numbers that sounds like the synthesizer riff from “Funkytown.” Another tries entering a series of random numbers, only to be told by a disembodied voice, “That’s weak. You are weak.” The universal understanding of cell-phone technology, a far-off concept as a stage effect when the show arrived here in 2000, is a cornerstone of the new show. The art of texting is shown to comedic effect, full of the slang and emoji icons now familiar to anyone at a Blue Man Group show.

“The icon-texting was deliberately written as teenagers texting,” says Dahlen, who joined the Blue Man company as a cast member in New York 20 years ago. “There is a very particular language being used in text, and when you have three characters who are silent, that type of communication is very effective.”

The production’s core acts are still winners. The use of PVC pipe in percussive instruments is singularly appealing, so much so that the show has released a series of CDs (which sound a lot like the soundtrack to a John Landis-directed chase scene). The scene in which one Blue Man tosses 30 marshmallows across the stage into the awaiting mouth of another Blue Man remains an impressive bit of physical comedy.

Another enduring moment is the show’s lengthiest, and also dates to its origins in Las Vegas. An audience member is brought onstage for a dinner party with the Blue Men, at which the entrée is a serving of Twinkies. The scene runs 15 minutes, an eternity for a Vegas stage show, but holds together as the audience member attempts to interact with the muted Blue Men. The scene deteriorates into a vaudevillian farce, as the vests worn by everyone onstage begin spewing gooey Twinkie glop.

It’s evident throughout, even with the messy conclusion, that the Blue Men are courting the person onstage—who is always a woman. Why does the human woman work, where the robot woman did not? That’s a reality best explained by a person who was once a Blue Man himself.

“The art is that they’re doing this. They are finding her, because they are interested in finding the right person,” Dahlen says. “The person is reticent and nervous, but the Blue Men are in control. They have initiated the action, and that’s why it works.”

Blue Man Group Thursday-Saturday & Monday-Tuesday, 7 & 9:30 p.m.; Sunday, 7 p.m.; $75-$150. Monte Carlo, 800-258-3626.

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