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A Blast of Blue and a Riveting Ride - Blue Man Group and THE RIDE

by Rich and Laura Lynch

A few days after a famous group of blue men had the ride of their lives on the streets of New York - team had a similarly themed adventure in the city still buzzing about the football Giants' Super Bowl victory and subsequent ticker tape parade in Manhattan. How did we achieve this feat? By catching the legendary Blue Man Group and taking a trip around midtown on the revolutionary THE RIDE bus tour.

Blue Man Group and THE RIDE in New York City
The Blue Man Group and THE RIDE - two exhilarating New York City attractions!

The Blue Man Group is a colorful blend of comedy, multimedia, music and theatrics. Their live shows are playful and have been experienced by millions throughout the world in major cities including Berlin, Boston, Chicago and New York. The Blue Man Group is currently running at the Astor Place Theater located between 4th Street and Astor Place in the East Village of NYC.

The Blue Man Group has performed on the Ellen Show, Live with Regis and Kelly and The Tonight Show and have been seen on television commercials throughout the world. BMG has grown into an international corporation, have released a number of albums and actively support educational projects. But, the Blue Man Group remains best-known for their conceptually challenging live art.

We attended an afternoon show of the Blue Man Group on February 11, 2012. The theater was a narrow brick structure where food and drinks were allowed. The audience was a mix of adults and families. Even before the performance began crowd participation was encouraged with the use of a LED scroll rousing fans to shout.

The theater went dark as the Blue Man Group started drumming - first individually and then in unison. Lights were flashing as they continued playing while pouring paint into their instruments. Red and yellow pigment was flying in the air as they continued their percussion patterns.

The next skit was funny with the three tossing marshmallows and fragile paintballs. From this activity, two works of art were produced and given to fans in the first few rows. A phone rings and three big "GiPads" lowered from the ceiling. The trio started flicking through screens. Even with their faces painted blue and without speaking you could tell that the blue men were intrigued and perplexed by what they were seeing.

A quick switch of costumes and the three returned to start messing around with PVC plumbing pipes. They soon discovered that they could play beats on them. The barely visible but glowing band above the stage added rock elements to the piece.

The lights in the theater were turned on so the blue men could walk among and on the seats. They selected a lady from the audience to join them on stage at a table. It appeared that the three were trying to court her in their own comedic way. More food ends up flying around so it was a good thing that folks in the front rows were wearing plastic ponchos.

The three clean up to play drums with multi-media adding to the mood. This led into "Rock Concert Movement" - a series of actions explained in song that are usually found at rock concerts. The music and lights during these sequences was animated and involved audience participation.

The matinee continued with more innovative theatrics and percussion heavy music. The show concluded with an energizing dance party and the theater filled with recycled streams of paper immersing the crowd. For the encore, the Blue Man Group were back painting with percussion to bring the production to an artistic end. The Blue Man Group performance was a colorful and crowd-pleasing spectacle!

The East Village is one of many interesting sections in New York with plenty of restaurants and shops. As we were leaving the Astor Place Theater an artist on the street had a big bunch of gold balloons and was freely handing them out to patrons exiting the show. We got a helium-filled star thus ending an afternoon of performance art on an even higher note.

New York is the city that never sleeps with an array of things to do including THE RIDE. The organization's publicity material states that "THE RIDE takes everything that makes New York, New York and kicks it into overdrive!" and we found this to be delightfully true.

NYC is a hub for architecture, art, commerce, fashion, museums, restaurants, shopping, technology and theaters. THE RIDE is a 75 minute trip through New York. Highlights include Carnegie Hall, Central Park and 6th Avenue. But what makes THE RIDE unique is its sideways perspective peering onto the city streets through large two-way windows with ample views of The Big Apple! The ceiling of the bus is also glass allowing for unique street side views of the buildings in the famed metropolis.

The 4.2 mile trip is special on every occasion depending on time of day and of course who or what may be on the streets of New York. THE RIDE starts and ends in the heart of Times Square at the Marriott Marquis Hotel (1535 Broadway).

We took our place in the stadium-style seating at 7 p.m. on Saturday. Prior to boarding the friendly staff greeted people asking general questions such as name, where are you from and what have you seen in New York. They also inquired about any plays that you may have recently attended. Through this process we found out that the M&M/Mars corporation was hosting a business retreat and some of their employees from around the world were on THE RIDE. They were all sporting yellow scarves the color of a peanut M&M bag (one of our favorite candies).

Scott and Jacki were our personable guides and presented the trip as an investigative tour of what makes New York - New York. THE RIDE is not your average bus. It's more a combination of Kit the car and Watson the computer. As such, it spoke on occasion and was able to scan its database of knowledge for interesting facts on buildings and famous people of the city. We learned that the clock at Grand Central Station has one of the largest pieces of Waterford glass and we were informed that the Ferris wheel in the Toy 'R' Us store is the largest in the world.

THE RIDE had lights, music, multi-media and actors on the street to present different stories of New Yorkers. Their tales are improvisational on a number of accounts. First, the information gathered from people on THE RIDE was incorporated into their stories. The lady who had come to New York trying to find Broadway sang a few line of "Day By Day" from Godspell, which happened to be the play we mentioned.

In the business district a RIDE actor was dancing in the street and people strolling by spontaneously joined in adding to the entertainment of the presentation. On another block, a guy starts rapping about THE RIDE mentioning the M&M people and sharing observations of what was happening on the street. He commented on a bent pole and asked people standing near it if they had done it. The rapper was witty and he along with the couple at Columbus Circle were our favorites among the talented team of featured street actors.

The opera singer from Iowa who was looking for Mr. Carnegie at the famous theater bearing his name showed that she could also belt out a Lady Gaga tune. The tour moved on to the Hearst Building with THE RIDE giving us some of its history.

As THE RIDE finished up in the heart of Times Square, we learned that the AMC theater where Abbott & Costello got their start had been moved early last century. The hosts joked that Dave and Busters and Applebees wanted the spot where the theater originally stood. THE RIDE presented images and schematics that documented the landmarked theater move on rollers to its current location. As we passed the three story M&M store there was a loud cheer before we returned to the Marriott Marquis Hotel for final departure. THE RIDE was engaging and entertaining!

We had a cool day in New York City. We both actively participated in the Blue Man Group's performance and Rich won a hat from THE RIDE for his knowledge of the city's geography. A few days after the Giants of the gridiron were celebrated for their feats on the field - we, too, went home feeling like winners!

Related Links: For more information on THE BLUE MAN GROUP, THE RIDE and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links - BLUE MAN GROUP | THE RIDE

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