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September 17, 2014

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Blue Woman Group? Not quite, but ever-evolving Blue Man Group is increasingly androgynous

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Blue Man Group performs in the Blue Man Group Theater at the Venetian.

Blue Man Group

The Blue Man Group performs at the Blue Man Group Theatre at the Venetian. Launch slideshow »
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Phil Stanton.

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Blue Man Group's national tour.

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Blue Man Group's national tour.

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Blue Man Group performs in the Blue Man Group Theater at the Venetian.

The very title of Blue Man Group indicates how the production bearing that name can be altered.

You could make the Blue Men red. You could add or subtract the number of Blue Men onstage. You could instill non-Blue Man characters to the show. You could introduce a woman to the Blue Man cast.

Some of that will happen when the show opens in October at the Monte Carlo. Not the coloring of Blue Man Group to red. That would be too radical a shift in shades. But the show is changing how it is presented and who (and what) is onstage when it opens at the Monte Carlo on Oct. 10 after spending the past seven years at the Venetian.

For the first time since BMG opened in 2000 at the Luxor, a female will be onstage with the three bald and blue central characters. On Thursday, the show held an open audition for women to inhabit a new character, called Showbot, to be rolled out in the new production. The casting call asked for women -- exclusively -- from 5-foot-3 and 5-foot-5 to try out for the new role.

This opens the possibility that a woman might take the stage as a for-real Blue Man.

“It’s assumed the Blue Man as a male character, but we don’t even think of it as a male character,” Blue Man Group co-founder Phil Stanton said in a phone interview this week. “We think of it as androgynous, so we’re always actively casting for women. In fact, recently we had a woman in training in Las Vegas, so maybe there will one in the Vegas show someday. It’s definitely a possibility. There are a lot of women who meet the height requirement (5-foot-10 to 6-foot-1) to be a Blue Man.”

There are quite a few in “Jubilee!” at Bally's, for starters.

It might bear noting that it’s assumed members of Blue Man Group are men because they are titled as such, but that’s not the way the creative minds behind the act think. The show is forever multimedia and musical and, at the Monte Carlo, will stray outside the performance venue once occupied by magician Lance Burton and the dance troupe Jabbawockeez. Visitors to the show will be led to the theater along an LED-illuminated walkway and with video walls displayed throughout the casino.

“These screens and LED surfaces outside the theater kind of reflect what people will see in the show,” Stanton said.

And that will be quite a change from a trio of blue-painted men banging on PVC pipe. There will be some of that primal and timeless BMG performance art, Stanton promises, with the Blue Men slamming on pipe and paint-splashed drums and throwing marshmallows into one another’s mouths. But Stanton also notes that 80 percent of the show is filled with new material, with the concept centered on the inner workings of the human brain.

All the new projection lighting and video panels for the show are designed to give audience members the feeling that they are inside the human mind.

“We’re really turning the theater into the inside of a human brain, really,” Stanton said. “The thing we’re mostly talking about is how to blow someone’s mind, and the best way to blow their minds is by taking them inside their own minds.”

It all sounds and feels ethereal, also by design, as Stanton isn’t offering specifics of how the mind-blowing will be fully achieved. But the robotic elements, and the female-inhabited Showbot character, do fit in that tour-of-the-mind theme.

“The character is really nested in a piece about robots. It’s about how robots are everywhere, all around us, and kind of pervasive in our lives,” Stanton said. “But they are not like they were promised in the 1950s. The new character kind of takes on the form of one of those old-fashioned robots, which looks humanoid and was developed with the idea that robots would be these creatures with human characteristics that would be cleaning your house and doing those types of daily chores.”

Showbot shares the stage with two 15-foot-tall, 4,000-pound auto-assembly robots that learn to play the PVC instruments by watching the Blue Men.

“It’s a way to express something about our own humanity and our own creativity,” Stanton said. “It shows the juxtaposition of how the human brain works, when you have auto-assembly robots taking on these human characteristics.”

The Blue Men were lured to Monte Carlo, chiefly, by hotel President Anton Nikodemus. He was the one who envisioned supplanting a traditional Strip magician — Lance Burton — with a group of masked, bounding dancers who let their performance do the talking.

“If it weren’t for Anton Nikodemus allowing us to do some interesting things, we would not be able to do this at all,” Stanton said. “We would not be able to bring a procession that goes through the casino to the entrance of the theater.”

That’s because the man who runs the hotel will never be mistaken for a robot.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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