It may not be easy being green, but for Brian Tavener it sure is easy being Blue.
Six years as part of the Blue Man Group in Boston, Tavener is now on the road with the touring production that lands on Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre stage beginning March 25.
To say it is easy though is perhaps a little misleading since it took a huge leap of faith for Tavener to audition after seeing the Group perform in his hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina.
“I saw the [Blue Man Group] Megastar tour in Raleigh and I knew that I needed to send them some material,” he says on the phone before getting ready for a show in Sacramento. “I wanted to get my material out there to shows that I had a passion for. Blue Man got in touch and I auditioned in LA. That trip really worked out for me and then I got the call back for New York.”
Nailing the call back, Tavener soon found himself in what he calls “Blue Man camp” and an intensive training regime that not only emphasized the technical aspects of the show including learning to play the group’s trademark PVC pipe drums, but also in finding his inner Blue Man.
“There were the daily workshops on drumming, lots of movement based workshops and running classic pieces from the show, but the biggest part was spent in finding your inner Blue Man and how your individual personality can shine through,” he explains.
His decision to move from the static show in Boston to the traveling show that will see him and his fellow Blue Men tour much of North America, is a way for him to reconnect with the show.
“Definitely after being in the Boston show for six years it was time for a refresh,” says Tavener who is not only enjoying re-discovering his Blue Man character, but is looking forward the challenges that playing in venues the size of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre brings.
“The touring show isn’t as intimate as the shows in the cities,” he explains of the non-touring Blue Man Group shows that are currently produced in Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas, New York, Orlando, Brazil, Berlin and aboard the Norwegian cruise ship Epic. “Instead of playing to 400 people every night like we did in Boston, we get to play to 1,500 instead. It has its challenges, but part of the fun is in getting to explore those new spaces every week.”
It is also an opportunity for Tavener and the rest of the traveling show to be part of what is billed as an “all-star” version of the Blue Man Group experience.
[pullquote]“It’s a show that celebrates human culture and the fun side of life. Somewhere along the way we’ve lost that ability and the show is a reminder that life is fun and what an amazing miracle it is to be a human. The Blue Men are able to tap into that every night.” – Brian Tavener[/pullquote]“The show is completely different from what you would see at one of the city shows because it takes the best bits from each of the shows from all around the world. It is also a wonderful opportunity to play to people who wouldn’t normally get to see the show.”
And connecting with the audience is an important part of what a Blue Man does and why Tavener continues to find the show such fun, even after six plus years.
“My favourite people in the audience are the 60 and 70 year olds,” he confesses, “because they don’t expect to like the show and it so wonderful to see the childlike innocence that they get to by the end.”
But while he enjoys watching the older audience members find their inner child each night, it is the universality of what the Blue Man Group does that accounts for its longevity and why Tavener says so many keep coming back year after year. Of course, part of that universality also comes from a show that is performed completely without dialogue, something he acknowledges is not an easy task.
“It is definitely one of the most challenging parts of the character,” he says of not being able to speak. “We need to harness the emotions in the eyes, and especially in these bigger houses you have to use a lot of body language to tell the story. Without language we are able to appeal to all walks of life and to people who speak all different languages.” Besides, he says, “we all bob our heads exactly the same way”.
As for the trademark blue? Tavener not only espouses the official explanation from show creators Chris Wink, Matt Goldman and Phil Stanton that speaks to blue’s powerfully soothing properties, but he takes it one step further as only a man in blue could.
“The earth is predominantly the colour blue which makes it an attractive place for Blue Men to explore,” a philosophy he says is at the core of what Blue Men do. “It’s a show that celebrates human culture and the fun side of life. Somewhere along the way we’ve lost that ability and the show is a reminder that life is fun and what an amazing miracle it is to be a human. The Blue Men are able to tap into that every night.”
Blue Man Group performs at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver March 25-30. Tickets are available online through Ticketmaster.