Los Angeles Theater Review: BLUE MAN GROUP IN CONCERT (Hollywood Bowl)

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by Tom Chaits on September 9, 2013

in Theater-Los Angeles

BLUE MAN GROUP GETS BOWLED OVER

International phenomenon Blue Man Group (BMG) made their Hollywood Bowl debut on Friday in a wildly uneven yet ultimately entertaining evening ranging from moments of true wonderment to “what were they thinking?” befuddlement.

Tom Chaits' Stage and Cinema Los Angeles review of BLUE MAN GROUP in concert at the Hollywood Bowl

The theme of the night was FUN and Principal Guest Conductor Thomas Wilkins and members of LA Phil’s Hollywood Bowl Orchestra were more than willing to play along and jump on the party train. Throughout the night, the Blue Men (Christopher Bowen, Mark Frankel and Brian Scott) interacted with the group in a series of bits and running gags that mostly induced laughter. However, if it were not for the newly installed giant video screens, much of the humor would have been lost in the enormity of the historic amphitheater.

Tom Chaits' Stage and Cinema Los Angeles review of BLUE MAN GROUP in concert at the Hollywood Bowl

The music for the evening consisted of mostly familiar pieces (2001’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Sabre Dance, Blue Danube, Bolero) along with a few original BMG compositions. As always, it was the driving rhythms of the group, played on various formations of PVC pipe, that worked the audience into a frenzy. With the help of the BMG Orchestra’s incredible percussion section (Todd Waetzig and Jason Mackenroth) the beat was truly infectious.

Tom Chaits' Stage and Cinema Los Angeles review of BLUE MAN GROUP in concert at the Hollywood Bowl

The show was populated with an overabundance of guests artists from a Beatboxer (Butterscotch) to a tuba player (Brian Wolff) to a didgeridoo-er (Natsuki Tamura). During Act II’s “had to be seen to be believed” rendition of Bolero the boys pulled out all the stops with uninterrupted surprises. It all started with a musical saw (Janeen Rae Heller) followed by a glass harmonica (William Zeitler), jaw harp (Mr. Fab), bouzouki (Richard Bernard), theremin (Charles Richard Lester), Tuvan throat singer (Arjuna), sitar (Ronobir Lahiri), scat singer (Sara Leib), roller skating guitarist (Harry Perry), and a bagpipe band (Los Angeles Police Emerald Society Pipes & Drums). It proved to be a tough act to follow as the next several numbers took a more subtle and less involving approach.

Tom Chaits' Stage and Cinema Los Angeles review of BLUE MAN GROUP in concert at the Hollywood Bowl

Eventually, the guys disappeared and were replaced by Monobloco, a 13-member Brazilian samba group with whom BMG had recently performed for a crowd of over 500,000 at Rio de Janeiro’s 2013 Carnival. Considering that many of BMG’s rhythms were born of South American roots, they were a fitting addition; however, their “Blue Men free” set went on for entirely too long.

Tom Chaits' Stage and Cinema Los Angeles review of BLUE MAN GROUP in concert at the Hollywood Bowl

Since it was a cloud-free night, the mostly golden-toned fireworks, perfectly timed to the music, could be enjoyed fully during the finale. The scene on stage was wild and a bit unruly as all the artists joined in for the festivities. It reminded me of several star-studded charity concerts I have attended where everyone comes back for a final bow, but are under-rehearsed and seem to be wondering aimlessly around the stage. It was messy but still a wow. For an encore, the trio performed on the group’s signature barrels of colored water; it was quintessentially satisfying, but it couldn’t live up to the preceding firework spectacular.

Tom Chaits' Stage and Cinema Los Angeles review of BLUE MAN GROUP in concert at the Hollywood Bowl

Still, the high points outnumbered the low during a beautiful summer night under the stars in a world famous venue with an iconic orchestra and the Blue Man Group. I assure you, only 3 people out of nearly 18,000 left feeling blue.

Tom Chaits' Stage and Cinema Los Angeles review of BLUE MAN GROUP in concert at the Hollywood Bowl

photos by Christopher Polk/Getty Images

Blue Man Group
LA Phil at the Hollywood Bowl
played September 6 and 7, 2013
for future Hollywood Bowl events, call 323.850.2000 or visit http://www.HollywoodBowl.com

for more info on Blue Man Group, visit http://www.BlueMan.com

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