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The colorful travels of a Blue Man

Courtesy photo
Part rock concert, part science experiment, the Blue Man Group has been wowing audiences with its groundbreaking music, comedy and multimedia shows for more than 20 years. It comes come to Charleston Oct. 3 and again Oct. 4.

WANT TO GO?

Blue Man Group

WHERE: Clay Center

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 3 and Oct. 4

TICKETS: $45 and $66

INFO: 304-561-3570 or www.theclaycenter.org CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- On the phone, Blue Man Chris Smith said he was eyeing a sign for a Bayou Adventure Boat shop across the street and considering sneaking away for a couple of hours before the Blue Man Group's show in Lafayette, La., to explore the swamp.

The odd, often thought-provoking, concert and comedy show comes to the Clay Center for a special two-night engagement Wednesday and Oct. 4, and Smith is looking forward to coming. He's near the start of a tour that will largely keep him from his Northern California home for the next year, so it helps to embrace the travel and look for interesting things to do.

In Louisiana, Smith said, one of the other Blue Men's parents drove up from Houston to visit and have dinner.

"We all went to a Cajun restaurant his parents went to 10 years ago," he said. "Once the people at the restaurant heard it was [the Blue Man Group], they pulled us up [on the dance floor], and we were line dancing before the end of the night."

It's too bad they weren't in makeup.

"That would have been a YouTube hit for sure," Smith added.

The 27-year-old said that if you'd asked him a couple of years ago if he saw himself doing what he does today -- traveling the country, playing percussion and performing while painted bright blue -- he'd have said no. He wouldn't have believed it.

He said, "I went to UCLA for theater, but filmmaking has been my passion."

But as a kid, he had a bit of a sideline in Lake Tahoe as a variety performer. Smith and his brother even had their own act.

"We started the Tahoe Jugglers," he said, then laughed. "For a while there, we had the juggling monopoly in Tahoe."

He kept up the juggling college, but after graduating in 2007, he focused more on work in film and television production.

A little more than a year ago, he decided he needed a change. He quit his production job and agreed to follow a childhood friend back home his home in Nepal to hike and explore.

"I spent a month backpacking," Smith said. "That was a pretty unique adventure. He was from a village of about 50 people 10,000 feet up in the Himalayas. I spent a month without Internet or phone service. We hiked to the base camp of Mount Everest."

When he returned home, Smith said he felt changed. He wanted to get back into performing, so he signed with a new agent. A month later, he saw a notice for open auditions for Blue Man Group.

He didn't really see himself as being part of the Blue Man Group but thought it might be a good workshop experience.

He said, "Truthfully, I thought the joke would be on them. I'd never seen the show, but I thought it was all drumming, and I'd never even hit a drum before."

The producers, however, saw that he might be a good fit. After he got the job, they put him through an intensive drum training program and a kind of Blue Man boot camp in New York.

"Everybody trains in New York," he said.

For his first year with Blue Man, Smith spent time in New York, Chicago and Orlando, where he worked on resident shows at the Astor Place Theater, the Briar Street Theater and the Sharp Aquos Theater at Universal Orlando Resort.     

There are also Blue Man Group shows in Las Vegas, Boston, Germany and on a Norwegian Cruise Line, which, with the U.S. and European tours, means there are a lot of Blue Men (both past and present).

"It's funny, we were talking about having a convention last night," Smith said. "It would be nice to put a name with the blue face."  

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


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