Live from the A-Team: Blue Men, Superman, Dogs, Drums, and Air

Another round of reviews for the week gone by, this time you’ll be hearing about The Blue Man Group, down at the Long Center, Man & Superman from Austin Shakespeare, Topdog/Underdog at the City Theater, the Kodo Drummers coming to town, and The Elementals: AIR down at the VORTEX.

Many Adjectives in Speechless Spectacle — The Blue Man Group

For 24 years, the Blue Man Group has had theatrical shows and concerts which combine comedy, music, multimedia and technology, appearing in theme parks (e.g., Disneyworld), concert halls and at special events. But the Austin stop, through 2/27, is part of its FIRST U.S. theatrical tour – 37 cities. One can collect adjectives about this show like a shiny string of pearls: delightful, unforgettable, wildly outrageous, intensely exciting, appealing (to all ages), wildly popular, unique. Those are a lot of other people’s modifiers. Here are mine: Comical, engaging, surprising, energetic, animated, charismatic, mind-boggling. Oh! Did I say “entertaining?” And in the Blue Man Group’s own words . . . well, they have NONE. Zero. Nada. The trio of performers has no voice; no ears for that matter! Just those blue heads and hands and the dark clothing. But there is a voice, the unseen M.C. as well as hilarious text messages in colorful, audience-interactive sketches. Austin – high-tech and weird, childish or college-age or mature — embraced the theme: an exploding overload of information and apps. Good-natured silliness and second looks reigned through-out, along with that addictive, vibrating music. And the hilarity factor zoomed exponentially when the three suddenly become a group-subgroup or 2 vs. 1. So, follow the Blue Man Group’s bliss at the Long Center; then, go out and follow your own bliss.

-Preston Kirk

Would Have Given Six Stars if I Could Have — Man & Superman

First off I know I will see this show again. George Bernard Shaw sure knew how to write witty dialogue and luckily for us in Austin we can have an outstanding cast to perform it. The character of Ann was played to perfection by Kimberly Adams. Jill Blackwood proved she can be a strong character on stage and in a show filled with giant performances Kim and Jill certainly shined. It’s an interesting play that goes into gender and relationships and have it be as important today as it was then. The costumes, setting and especially cast made me a believer that Austin Shakespeare has such a great grasp of shows that are not Shakespeare and hope they continue to do more of these kind of shows. I have seen them do Glass Menagerie, An Ideal Husband and this fine show and can only say bravo. I hope you as an audience that does see it gives the cast and fellow audience members respect some did not give us and watch the show in silence. Cast battled thru it and so did I. Have a great run. 

–Stephen Reynolds

Topdog was Tops — Topdog/Underdog

I can see why this play swept the Tony awards. It was almost perfectly constructed and the direction was very effective. A two-man play is difficult at best, and requires the concentration of a surgeon. Mr.Romeo and Mr.Moore are excellent in the roles of the hopelessly co-dependent brothers, abandoned by their parents. The story reminded me of the Cain and Abel story, and the Jacob and Esau story, whether it was intentional or not. This is a gritty, in-your-face slice of life play. You will find yourself quickly fascinated with the interplay between the siblings, with no ‘dead-air’ time. It moves quickly and keeps you on the edge of your seat. Don’t miss Topdog/Underdog 

–Jesse Griffith

Spell Bound and Mystified — The Elementals: AIR

The Vortex Theatre is ambitious and I am so glad that they are. I did a bit of homework after seeing this play, The Fundamentals – Air and found that this is the first of a series of plays that the Vortex is taking on. Wind, Earth, Fire among others are planned for the future. The theatre has taken original material, music both instrument and words, costumes, set, lighting and created a world I far prefer over the film Avatar. I did have a slight moment of that but felt it would be greatly cheating this fine cast for any comparisons. Director Bonnie Cullum assembled a powerful cast of people who became the characters they were portraying. I was taken in by those who sang their individual songs and must note that the training Andy Agne gave so paid off. I will admit that knowing a few in cast made them my sentimental favorites. I can’t help but be captivated by performances of Kylie Baker, Jenny Lavery and Betsy McCann. Come see their message of respect and care for our world. See them. 


Kodo Drummers

The majesty of the 1915-built Paramount Theater accented the acoustic lusciousness of the powerful drums. The Kodo drummers of Japan, for one night, mesmerized and entranced an audience who were rapt with a kind of religious wonder at the sounds and skills of the performers.
Beginning simply and elegantly, with a single performer and a lone drum, the show’s dramatic arcs played out like the rising and falling of great waves. In one section, at least eight performers were kneeling downstage like warriors posed for a peaceful bout before their drums, drumsticks ready, aimed at angles in the air. Then quietly, pitter-patter raindrops, then another player joins in and another, until one by one, a thunderstorm was happening in the theater.
I closed my eyes and listened to how the sound traveled in the space, almost as if amplified on headphones, moving from one ear to the other in percussive harmonies.
The drummers were precise, delicate, powerful, and graceful, with spot-on timing that was almost too exact to notice. Finally, the largest drum was slowly rolled into center spotlight. Two performers regally stood before the massive instrument, one in front, and the other unseen on the other side of the drum. They disrobe into only a Sumo wrestler type jock strap. The drummer’s body was all muscle, with back and shoulders facing the audience, as if to reveal the kinds of shaping this drum can carve on the human form who practices its artistic physicality. With a divine ‘boom, boom,’ the escalation of vibrations rose while the drummer slowly and consistently increased tempo and loudness. One arm fell to the center of the drum head, then the other followed suit, as if he was swimming horizontal.
By this finale, the energetic thrust of the show had exploded into cascading reverence. After the largest drums had their moment, all the players come out for a final celebratory drum-dance, engaging the audiences even further into their carousing and respectful play with the heartbeat passion of drums.


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About nowplayingaustin

The Austin Creative Alliance is a nonprofit performing arts service organization working to cultivate an environment where the performing arts can grow and flourish. We serve over 130 arts organizations with marketing, ticketing, audience development services; AEA paymaster, information & referral services — plus access to affordable health, liability, and event insurance. We also provide online professional development seminars, fiscal sponsorship services for emerging arts groups, host annual unified general auditions, annual theatre industry awards, and consistently advocate for the many benefits the arts bring to our quality of life.

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