The Wharton Center is about to go BLUE – yes you read that correctly. The Blue Man Group is returning to town January 20-22th for five FUN performances! Greater Lansing Area Moms had the opportunity to speak with Mike Brown. He shares how he got into performing, about this production and some things he has learned along the way.
Oh, and Mike is a Blue Man, but which one? He gives a clue below!
If you have not been to see The Blue Man Group, it truly is an experience unlike any other. It is family friendly and an excellent first time theater experience for those who have never been. There is something for everyone – improv-like, interactive, action-packed, music, antics, sometimes messy and a lot of wit. Oh, they are also silent. As in do not speak a peep, he shares how he keeps from laughing 😆!
Welcome, Mike! Where did you grow up?
I was born in Susquehanna, PA but I grew up in the Virginia Beach area.
How did you get interested in acting?
One day my high school teacher asked me if I was auditioning for the Spring musical and I was like oh ok… That really started it all! I really enjoy performing, making people laugh and the experience of the whole thing. The impact a teacher can have is amazing – I never really thought about it, I wasn’t doing any intense training or studying- I just enjoyed it!
I also would not be where I am today without my mom, Francy. She bought me my first drum set. This is not a bad rap to my dad, she was the one who encouraged me to do what I want. For people to encourage you, you can’t beat it. And my mom was the one who did that for me.
How did you and your wife meet and how do you balance married life while traveling for the show?
Actually, I met my wife at a show. She was supposed to be seeing Moulin Rouge and I joke that I think she would have rather seen Moulin Rouge than Blue Man Group that night 🙂 She is a dance teacher so she does lots of touring for companies, so when we met we realized that we both have the same kind of lifestyle. We were used to it from the very beginning.
What ages is the Blue Man Group show for?
The great thing about this show is that it is for all ages. Kids are welcome! It’s a PARTY and EVERYONE is invited.
Besides a party, how else would you describe the show to those who have never seen it?
It’s just fun! It might be cliche, but it’s complete fun for everybody. It’s great music, great visuals, great storytelling, beautiful, moving and it’s just a good time. And of course- I like to think the show is personal for everybody. We aren’t saying anything so you are making up your own experience.
That brings up another question! How hard is it to refrain from talking or laughing?
Not talking is not that bad, but not laughing can be challenging especially if something out of the ordinary is happening. You try to keep a heightened awareness as a Blue Man- to look at the moment differently instead of just being funny. Taking deep breaths also really helps!
Is there a part of the show that you enjoy more than others?
Definitely ANY audience interaction! Playing music is fun and interacting with each other is fun, but when you’re out in the audience there are so many things that you can’t plan for and people are the number one reason we are there! The audience is the 4th character of the whole show. Actually they should be the number one character because they are what we are trying to affect and communicate with – anytime we have audience participation on stage – it’s just “the gold”, it’s what we are looking for!
Is there something particular at every tour stop that you like to try?
Well definitely touring, you have your comforts that you look for, so definitely a good coffee or breakfast place to go to is always a perk. At least find good/decent food! The in’s and out’s of the day are somewhat normal, but also constant hotel travel.
Everyone on the tour has hobbies- some like to go look for guitars (my favorite!), baseball cards or we all get together and meet at local places – that is always fun meeting local people.
Just yesterday, me and two of the band members got to tour the SABIAN Cymbal factory in Canada. That was an unreal dream come true experience! Every cymbal that has ever been made goes through that company – so that’s a fun hobby!
Well we do have some cool, well known music shops in the area, Marshall Music is not far from Wharton Center.
Well, actually you shouldn’t be recommending these to me, my wife would say we have ENOUGH !
And how many crew members travel with Blue Man Group?
Somewhere between 25-30 – a full sustaining crew of company, management, assistants, 3 band members and 4 Blue Man. We split that up and travel by bus pretty evenly. We form a tight knit family- we try to get together for holidays and fun outings.
Speaking of travel, are there certain things from home that you bring with you on the road?
Well, enough warm clothes! We were recently in Alaska and Maine- it gets pretty cold there. You want to be prepared for that! Really the in’s and out’s that you need for the day- toiletries, laundry, books. Now that we are nearing the end of the tour, I have paired down what I used to travel with- I used to travel with more books, but then I realized that they were weighing me down and just sitting there.
Some on the crew travel with food items. One great gift that Blue Man Group gave us was a travel utensil set – I didn’t even think about it, but that is a perfect thing to have while traveling.
I used to travel with my own pillow, but sometimes when we fly, I can’t leave it on the bus and I just don’t have the space. It’s a toss up between a warmer jacket or a pillow – I guess I trust that the places are comfortable and if not, we just roll with it!
Is there a way for us to know which Blue Man is you on stage next week? 🙂
I’ll be the funny one! HA! I don’t know what role I will be playing in East Lansing, but I am the shorter one out of the group. You have to be 5’10” to 6’2″ – I just make it at 5’10”! My job at auditions is to walk along and meet the new people who are there to audition – they look at me to see if they meet the criteria (aka the height criteria).
We didn’t realize there were certain requirements to be on the show, can you tell us more about those?
Yes, the first one is the height requirement. Also, you have to be able to act with your eyes, that is a crucial acting tool you need. You have to be able to learn how to drum. And it’s odd, but you have to be able to practice and catch things in your mouth. Blue Man like to think outside the box and make things creatively, so catching something and making art out of it is not out of the question.
All these things are so we can appear to be the same three. It’s not to simplify it, but it’s like Santa. You create a perception in everyone’s mind and then they believe! And people really do truly believe that we are the same person out on tour and doing the show in Las Vegas. That is part of the mystery and the coolness of the Blue Man character is that he can transcend people – realizing it is actually a performance.
How much time do you spend practicing catching things in your mouth?
Oh, it’s one skill we practice EVERYDAY. Before every show, we throw and catch little water balloons and then in the show it’s a different item that we catch. It’s unique and a lot of pressure, but a skill you can master!
What advice would you give to a young adult who is interested in acting?
DO WHAT YOU DREAM! Truly. Not to sound like people like people who say that everyday, but when I first saw this show in 1998, I thought that I would love to do that and that’s exactly what I want.
Still to this day, I am grateful for what I have achieved and grateful for what people have helped me achieve. So just keep going for what you want to do! Of course follow other’s advice, but take your own advice first.
What is one thing that people would be surprised to learn about you?
Oh wow that’s a tough question. I do know a great deal about movies and movie trivia. I enjoy doing certain movie games every day on my phone and I enjoy that trivia.
Ok, what are your top 3 movies!
I like DieHard, Shawshank Redemption and I like movies by Taika Waititi, he did Jo Jo Rabbit. His movies are incredible.
And during BMG training, they encouraged us to watch movies that make you think, perceive and understand the BMG vibe — such as Forrest Gump because he has innocence in a way that he isn’t aware of his surroundings, so he can move throughout an environment where people think he’s fantastical but he has no idea. It’s like what we talked about not being able to laugh- It’s not that he is not normal, he’s just different.
If someone has been to see The Blue Man Group at the Luxor in Las Vegas, what are some things they should look forward to while attending a North American Tour performance?
Each show is different, not only from the things that are performed but also the key people who are performing. I believe that all of the sit down shows like New York, Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas, etc have different pieces within their show. They all vary. And of course, night to night the shows are different because of the audience and the whole experience we are maintaining to create.
And out here on the tour this is a completely new show. In 2019, they took it out on the road! Of course there are some signature pieces that people will recognize and connect with us, but it’s all a new adventure for us- sharing new instruments we’ve created and having different experiences with participants. It’s still the same spectacle and we still bring the mess with us 🙂 It’s a party and we don’t hold back!
Tell us about the BLUE paint and your costume!
Yes, that is real paint on us ! It is blue Greasepaint made by Mehron- a special blue color that is patented and made especially for Blue Man Group. And we lather it on our heads! It’s super easy to take the paint off.
Check out this video for behind the scene makeup: youtube.com/watch?v=WE1MdIA00tQ
It’s a wonderful experience getting into character through basically the process of putting this costume on. It takes about half an hour. If you were in “crisis mode” – I have seen it done in 7 to 10 minutes! It’s super fun and adds to the part about being just a kid and letting out your inner joy—- painting your head and creating a character out of yourself!
FUN ONES to get to know you:
Early bird or Night owl? Night owl, this show makes me energetic later at night and I sleep in.
Winter or Summer? Winter- especially after just being in Alaska for the show. It’s incredible and cozy.
What’s your favorite color, blue? It’s red. I love blue and it has a special meaning of course, but for me it’s red.
How does the show connect with families?
Our show is basically about working together. Even in a moment where you think someone doesn’t know what you’re thinking or isn’t doing what you want,eventually you are going to realize they are. That sort of level of communication and working together – I feel like that speaks to dealing with problems or understanding that everyone has problems.
When people learn how to play together, what a better way to be. And when you realize that everyone is in charge of the game instead of one person, it makes the game better. I truly believe that when people leave Blue Man Group- they are in that state and in that world. Everyone leaves in “Blueforia”
Thank you Mike for taking the time to speak with Greater Lansing Area Moms. We loved learning more about you and all the behind the scenes fun of Blue Man Group!
Tickets are available to purchase HERE. Enjoy the show!
A special thanks to Wharton Center. They have facilitated numerous interviews. We are honored to share all we learn about the upcoming performances and the person behind the performer – it is a gift and we are so appreciative for the opportunity.