Preview: Blue Man Group at the Palace

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From the February 2, 2012 edition

No matter how hard they try to get out, most mimes will always be trapped in an invisible box of ridicule. But over the past 20 or so years, Blue Man Group has proved that three mute guys covered in a thick layer of greasepaint can be engaging, hilarious and hip. Is it because they’re drummers? Well, that certainly doesn’t hurt their rep.

The blue blokes, who have taken up residence in theaters around the world as their popularity has grown, are fairly new to life on the road. The tour that brings the group to Columbus on Tuesday is the first of its kind, presenting much of the theatrical show that audiences see in Chicago, New York and other permanent Blue Man homes. Previous touring shows have been formatted more like rock concerts.

“They really wanted to get it right,” explained longtime Blue Man Kalen Allmandinger on why it took the show organizers a while to make this tour happen. “There was a lot of renovation involved to set the tone as you get into the lobby [of the group’s permanent homes] — it’s a different world. I think they wanted to make sure that they were going to be able to still have a submersive experience and be able to put it on a couple of trucks and travel it around.”

The show still features the three men — who sometimes are actually played by women — getting into mischief, being silly and banging on percussion contraptions made out of PVC pipe, but now there’s a new set made of lots of LED screens, including three that can join together to make a cinematic wide screen.

“It can either be a set piece in the background or it can sort of come to life and interact with the Blue Man,” Allmandinger explained.

About 40 percent of the show is new or has been updated for the tour, Allmandinger estimated, adding that “even some of the greatest hits have kind of a fresh sheen.”

Because audience members are involved in certain skits, some parts of the show are destined to be different each night.

“You never know what you’re going to get, depending on who you invite [on stage], what kind of mood they’re in or how many drinks they’ve had,” he said, laughing.

Photo courtesy of Blue Man Productions]