I have two sons, ages three and six. Since the day I found out I would be a father, there are certain scenarios I've played out in my mind. Some are situations every parent probably daydreams about: the first steps, first bicycle ride without training wheels, first touchdown, graduation from high school/college/law school. For me though, I have always imagined what sort of arts my kids will be drawn to. Will my six-year-old be a classic rock guy or into hip-hop in his teens? Will my three-year-old be so taken by the cinematic arts that he makes his own low-budget film that wins a film fest award and gets him into NYU film school? Hey, what can I say? I like to dream big. While I've made it a point to try to expose my kids to as many aspects of the arts as possible, I've tried to be careful not to shove things down their throats. I've cherished the little victories, like how it seems to amaze them that I know every song on Sirius/XM's Classic Rewind channel, and sing to them as we ride home from school/daycare. I'm also particularly proud that my six-year-old seems to be acquiring my taste for silly novelty songs, the kind that Dr. Demento compiles into CD collections. You know, stuff like Spike Jones' "Cocktails for Two," Weird Al Yankovic's "Albuquerque," and Cake's primo cover of that Muppet classic "Mahna-Mahna." Playng those songs in the car on Spotify is guaranteed to elicit giggles from the kids and eye rolls from my wife.
Given my older son's penchant for weird music, when I heard that Blue Man Group would be coming to the North Charleston Performing Arts Center as part of the Best of Broadway series, I knew I had to take him to see the show. I had seen BMG about a decade earlier when they performed at the North Charleston Coliseum. It remains one of the coolest and most original productions I've ever seen at the venue. For those not familiar with what BMG is about, there are basically three blue-skinned men dressed all in black on stage, and during the performance they use unconventional means (PVC pipes, LED figures, Cap'n Crunch cereal) to perform an act that is part musical, part comedy, and all weirdness. I'm doing my best to describe the experience, but really, the only way to properly explain the BMG experience is to go see them. They have permanent installations of the show in places like New York City, Boston, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles.
As my wife, my son, and I drove to last Friday's BMG performance at the PAC, I tried to explain to my son what he was going to be seeing. Honestly, I didn't do much better than the preceding paragraph, and the look on my son's face told me he was on the fence about whether he was going to like the show. Then I remembered that I had taken him to the Best of Broadway production of Shrek a couple of months back, which he had loved. "Nigel, you remember when we saw those people performing Shrek on the stage? Well, we're going to see a different show tonight at the same place, an even cooler show." My son's interest seemed piqued, at least more than before. Still, I worried that he might not get it.
I needn't have worried. From the opening of the show, which featured the Blue Men's silhouettes projected on huge screens as they beat on drums and PVC instruments, my son was mesmerized. A lot of the BMG's show deals with sight gags and pantomime set to music, since none of the performers speak. As the show continued, we laughed and clapped as the Blue Men spat paint onto canvases, caught what seemed like an impossible amount of marshmallows in their mouths (the congealed mass of which one performer then deposited in an audience member's purse), and turned breakfast cereal into a percussion instrument with their mouths. My son particularly liked the way the Blue Men stopped the show to point out a couple of latecomers, complete with alarms, sirens, and spotlights following the tardy folks to their seats. When the Blue Men interacted with a trio of giant "GiPads," sticking their heads behind them to give the illusion their noggins had grown by about five sizes, my son cackled particularly as the third Blue Man's head came up not as his own, but of a giant chicken's.
There was also some audience participation during the show. The Blue Men wandered out into the audience twice to bring unsuspecting folks up on the stage for some unorthodox fun. The first victim was a woman who was invited to share a meal of Hostess Twinkies with the Blue Men. After the use of a vacuum, a jigsaw, two lamps, a candle, a fire extinguisher, and several snack cakes, the sequence ended with the Blue Men apparently regurgitating Twinkies from their chests, which were then shared among the snack time guests. To the woman's credit, she was a remarkably good sport. Later a man was brought up on the stage, shoved into a white jumpsuit, and then spirited away backstage, where a bit of camera trickery made it look as if he was splashed with blue paint, suspended by his feet, and slammed into a large canvas to make a piece of modern art.
My son also loved the show's climax, which involved the Blue Men leading the crowd through a list of patented rock movements ("The one-handed fist pump," "raising the roof"), then directing the audience to shake their booties, while the video screens displayed dozens of euphemisms for one's posterior (My favorite "The place where the burritos go," while my son preferred that old standby, "Heiney"). My son also surprised my wife and I by dancing his little heiney off. As neither my wife nor I are really into dancing, it was a revelation to see him getting down. Then the Blue Men started chucking giant multi-colored balloons and confetti streamers out into the audience, and I thought my son's head was going to explode. Here's a picture of him in mid-boogie, and the expression on his face says it all.
We left the show much like every other audience member; with huge smiles on our faces, and I like to think that I was able to let my son experience a truly unique life experience. I look forward to him getting older and gravitating toward his own artistic tastes. Hopefully we will see eye to eye on some bands, movies, visual art forms, but I will also relish seeing him strike out on his own, discovering what he likes through immersion. Mind you, I'm not wanting him to grow up too fast. It seems like only yesterday that my wife and I were bringing him home from the hospital, and now he's a curious first-grader. Whenever I have a chance to expose him or his little brother to an experience like BMG, I'll drag them to the event if necessary. Be it Spoleto performances, concerts at the PAC or the Coliseum, visual art exhibits at the Gibbes, or a film that redefines cinema, I'll get them to as many experiences as I can. There's a lot to see out there, and I aim to see as much of it as I can during my short stay in this world. Having a family of open-minded companions to experience these art forms with me just makes that experience all the sweeter.