Men in blue are on their hardest-rocking tour yet

[12 February 2007]

By Michael Deeds

McClatchy Newspapers

Wes Day knew he was potential Blue Man Group material when, much to his surprise, he realized that he could catch thrown marshmallows in his mouth.

“I remember catching them, thinking, `Oh! It’s not as hard as it looks!’” he says with a laugh.

A decade after that fateful afternoon audition, Day is an enthusiastic veteran of the bizarre, entertaining theater trio, which is traveling the country on its “How to be a Megastar Tour 2.0.”

Developed by three friends on the streets of New York in the `80s, The Blue Man Group has evolved into a mute army that shows up everywhere from TV commercials to “The Tonight Show.” There are now more than 60 marshmallow-catching, PVC pipe-banging Blue Men in the world. The company has standing shows in cities such as New York, Las Vegas, London, Berlin and Amsterdam.

Day, a graduate of the North Carolina School of Arts, is one of four touring Blue Men (one Blue Man rotates out each night). “How to Be a Megastar” is visiting 62 North American cities after a successful 42-date run in 2006.

Like most Blue Man Group shows, “Megastar” is a multimedia experience that first-timers will either get ... or, occasionally, not. The Blue Men have earless, cobalt-blue heads and faces. They do not speak, communicating instead by quizzical facial expressions or simple gestures. Aggressive drumming - often on unusual instruments made of plastic piping - is a driving focus of any Blue Man show.

Be warned, Gramps: “Megastar” rocks. Hard. Augmented by an eight-piece band that includes three additional drummers, the Blue Man Group - through humor, headbanging, high-tech staging and crowd interaction - takes audiences through a step-by-step guide on how to become a big rock star.

Day says that “Megastar” is a love letter, of sorts, to the late `70s monster-rock concert: Think Pink Floyd, AC/DC, Kiss or The Who.

“We’re trying to bring back that feeling, that vibe, that was created by those legendary arena-rock concert spectacles,” he says. “And we’re making fun of it - we’re making fun of the formula - but at the same time, we’ll turn around and use it to create some serious rock.”

A Blue Men Group show involves a healthy helping of satire, often directed toward cultural issues. But aside from the bombastic music and silly humor, Day predicts that “Megastar” audiences will be most dazzled by the light show, which has been reworked since the 2006 trek.

“I just think it’s really going to blow people’s minds,” he says. “We have probably 50 percent more lighting instruments on stage. And it’s probably about 25 degrees hotter, which I’m not looking forward to that. But if it looks better, I’ll take it!”

Sweaty blue grease paint aside, the pluses of being a Blue Man outweigh the minuses, Day says. That’s why so many actors stay with the company for years at a time.

“A lot of people really like the show, and you get done with it and no one’s going to come pound on your door for pictures,” he explains. “You get to kind of be a star on stage without having all the other junk that comes along with it. Although it’s not really a stepping stone if you want a career, like a traditional actor.”

On the other hand, if you’re a guy who likes having fun and rocking hard, being a Blue Man is the ultimate job, he says.

“It’s great to play a character where you play some really kick-ass drum licks, and there’s paint flying off the drums, and you’re kicking a lot of ass with a rock band, and then you go out and do something funny. You see the audience slapping their knees laughing.”

Day had never seen the Blue Man Group before he auditioned, he says. In fact, it’s the first professional theater audition he has ever attempted.

Two weeks after graduating in 1997 and moving to New York, hoping to become an actor, he had done two things: bought a bartending manual and, at the suggestion of a friend, auditioned for the Blue Man Group.

When he finally saw the show, he was amazed.

“I thought, `Man, there’s no way I’m talented enough to do something like this,” Day says.

But one week later, Day, a talented drummer, was catching marshmallows between his teeth during his final callback.

“I went out that afternoon and filled out some applications to restaurants and bars, then at 1 o’clock on the next day, they called me and said, `You got it.’ ” Day remembers. “Ten years later, here I am. Still catching marshmallows. Still blue-ing it.”

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