Blue Man Group still making noise

Incomparable show business success story stays relevant by reinventing itself

Bruce Spotleson

Bruce Spotleson

Big-name performers and well-branded productions may enhance a hotel’s brand on Las Vegas Boulevard, but the simple reality of show business is that true success is measured only in ticket sales. The number of posteriors in the pews at curtain time is what counts most, and the box office can be a harsh judge of talent.

It would be difficult to gauge the average lifespan of a show at our major hotel venues, but it would be safe to say that the Blue Man Group already has surpassed that. Now, as the act settles into its third venue, the Monte Carlo, there’s no apparent sign of its popularity waning.

Formed in 1987 by Matt Goldman, Phil Stanton and Chris Wink, the Blue Man Group attracted attention as it evolved from Central Park performances to progressively larger Manhattan venues, in the process picking up serious off-Broadway theatrical plaudits and becoming a major viewing curiosity on late-night TV.

Still, its core audience remained pretty much a cult following until the Blue Man Group opened in late 1999 at the Luxor, where it earned a reputation as one of the more outrageous shows on the local scene. The performers didn’t even need dialogue to deliver, focusing instead on cleverly refined percussion, stunts and spectacle.

After the Luxor, they moved to the Venetian for a strong seven-year stretch before moving to the Monte Carlo in October. They now inhabit the showroom that was Lance Burton’s home back in the day.

Thanks in part to a stream of house guests over the years, I’d been drawn to the show four times since it opened in Las Vegas. As I entered the new venue, I wondered if it could still hold my attention.

I had been hoping to see changes, and I was rewarded. To my relief, it was not the same as the previous performances I had seen, the last of which had grown tedious. Proven stunts remained highly entertaining, but new additions took it to another level. The addition of the conceptual and technical wizardry of Cirque veteran Michael Curry paid off, enhancing the stage with innovative robotics, musical instruments, visuals and a clever touch-up involving social media.

Most of the onstage events still rely on timing that’s as crucial as an acrobat’s, and the performers were never late and never out of synch.

Because of its use of black lights, bright colors, rock music and pop art, and perhaps my own life experiences, I’d always considered the Blue Man Group as the consummate Baby Boomers show. But there were a lot of families there the busy weeknight I attended, and they all seemed to be having a good time.

As the Blue Man Group enters its 14th year here, it defies labels. It is simply a longtime business success, one of the rarest of show business achievements on the Strip.