The *Blue Man Group first started banging on paint-laden drums in 1991 and it now has permanent shows in five US cities and Berlin, plus a touring version of the show.
It’s clearly as popular as it is hard to sum up and it many parents wonder, can you take kids to Blue Man Group and at what age?
We saw the show at its original home in New York’s East Village in July with 9YO Tiny Traveler. She thought it was weird and almost impossible to describe to her friends. But she also really liked it and was laughing at loud at parts.
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Our take on Blue Man Group with kids
What Age Is Best?
The BMG website recommends the show for ages 3 and up. But I think that’s optimistic. The show is 90 minutes with no intermission.
There is loud music, lots of drumming and strobe lights. And those weird blue guys climb into the audience from time to time.
A young child might think parts of it are funny but won’t get all of it. And it would scare the heck out of at least some preschoolers.
In New York, leaving the theater is small, dark and cramped; leaving mid-show with a crying preschooler wouldn’t be easy.
The youngest I saw in the theater was 7 or so and I think that’s about right, maybe 5 if there older siblings that want to go. Teens enjoy the show, too, and can appreciate it on a different level from younger kids.
What To Expect
Blue Man Group is loud. Knowing this and knowing that our kid doesn’t do well with loud we brought protective headphones with us.
Even with them there were parts of the show that she found almost too loud. And I kind of wish I had brought earplugs for myself.
While there is a lot of drumming on drums, cans, pipes and other things, the loudest decibels came from a house band that favors grungy and heavy rock sounds.
Tip: When we came in they asked us if we wanted earplugs for TT. So if you don’t have your own headphones, ask for earplugs for your kids (and maybe for you).
What You’ll See
The show itself is quirky and fun; a series of vignettes that rely entirely on physical comedy, which kids always love.
I think that the biggest change from city to city will be the size and shape of the theater and how they can adapt the show to different spaces.
The threesome express a lot with their eyes, mostly surprise, bewilderment and satisfaction. The routines that kids liked the most revolve around the group trying to accomplish something and things going repeatedly wrong for one of them.
For example, one might curiously lean over a drum rim full of paint and wind up with a face full of green, red or yellow splatters when his companion unexpectedly hits the drum head.
The last time I saw the show was 16 years ago. They have updated parts of it since then, particularly with a vignette that involves the blue guys interacting with human size cell phones that do cool things but don’t always cooperate.
At the beginning, they get the audience wound down and ready for the show with a scrolling video screen that issues that usual pre-show requests and then calls out members of the audience by name to make fun of them.
A Bronze-medal Olympic swimmer was in the audience the day we visited and the screen assured her she shouldn’t feel bad at all about coming in third.
They bring two or three audience members onstage during the show, but as far as I can tell they don’t call on kids.
Toward the end of the show the crew lets loose reams and reams of toilet paper while strobe lights flash and the cast climbs around the theater watching the activity.
I thought the strobes mixed with loud music might freak Tiny Traveler out, but she loved that the lights made her dress glow.
She thought the prospect of burying an entire audience in toilet paper was fantastic. What kid wouldn’t?
They give members of the first three rows rain ponchos and warn that it’s the wet section. I think how wet you get might depend on what they are doing at the moment.
At our show those eager front-row-goers seemed disappointed to walk away with no more than a few dots of paint.
Tip: The three blue guys don’t talk at all, which makes it a good theater option if English isn’t your first language (or if you don’t speak it at all).
There really wasn’t anything Tiny Traveler didn’t like. Rich and I enjoyed it a lot too; it was the second time for both of us, but it has been a while for us, too.
We all could have lived without the house band’s heavier taste in mood music, though.
Tiny Traveler was excited to tell her friends about it and her biggest challenge was trying to explain her first foray into performance art to her fellow 4th graders.
In the end she settled for explaining that three all-blue guys do stuff and it’s weird but funny, too, and they should go see it.
I guess that’s all you need to know!
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*We were guests of Blue Man Group for the show we saw. We did not promise to review the show in exchange for the tickets and our opinions are always our own.
* Photos are courtesy of Blue Man Group.