For the News-Democrat
As part of the Blue Man Group's band for the past 12 years, Charles Henry is used to the unexpected. The multimedia group defies categorization. You know a trio of bald blue guys will be on stage. The rest is a journey.
Henry plays strings, guitar, zither and chapman stick for the tribal rhythms that are part of the group's experimental music sound. Their latest theatrical tour features new content highlighted by classic Blue Man favorites. They will perform at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis from Nov. 20 to Dec. 2.
Henry said they have a new sound, set and video design with an LED curtain and high-resolution screen for this tour.
"It's a new visual experience. We have six trucks of equipment!" he said during a phone interview from Memphis.
With the Blue Man Group, he has toured nearly all 50 states, seven Canadian provinces and nine European countries. So how does he keep it fresh?
"It's always a new audience -- they may have seen the show before, but it's always a new experience for the audience, so that's how we approach it," Henry said. "I like to hear the reactions from the audience, talking with people after the show. They're looking to see something they have never seen before or will ever see again."
From humble beginnings, Henry credits his mother's support for getting him to where he is today. He was born in Los Angeles but grew up in Las Vegas, and began playing music at age 12.
"I just took to it." He knew that would be his life's passion, he said.
A self-taught musician, he has played with The Cab, Third Eye Blind and Modern Science, to name a few rock bands. With Blue Man Group, he has found a suitable home. During auditions, Henry said they not only look for talent but also personality. "They seek high quality. A new cast brings something different. They're fun people. On the road, we're a little family."
The group's longevity -- the fact that they've been around 25 years -- is appealing. They have shows in Las Vegas, New York, Chicago, around the world and even on a Norwegian cruise line. "They're all different. Shows might be updated at different times. The sit-down shows are different than the theatrical shows -- each have elements from all the shows," Henry said.
Henry enjoys the rigors of putting together a new show, then touring with it.
"It's a great company in general, he said. "They like to switch it up, keep things fresh. They treat us well. I love this show, it's a fun experience. They're always trying to keep up with the newest technology, but the music is timeless, the concept of the music is that it is ageless -- that it appeals to little kids up to senior citizens."
Co-founder Philip Stanton said creating the new show was a challenge.
"We needed to find a way to transform theatres of all shapes and sizes into spaces in which the Blue Man can intimately connect with the audience, where the audience can become engaged with the spirit of the show and the Blue Man himself. Our goal is always to help audience members reconnect with their own sense of wonder and discovery, with their own sense of what is possible in their lives."
Often, the biggest reaction to the show is that it's funny. "People are always surprised by the humor," Henry said.
And yes, the band wears makeup, too. His neon makeup takes only about 15 minutes to put on, he said. As for the Blue Men, it's about a 45-minute routine.
Henry's happy to be a chip off the new block.
What: Blue Man Group
When: Nov. 20-Dec. 2
8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday matinees.; and 7:30 p.m. Sundays. No performance on Thanksgiving.
Where: Fox Theatre, 527 N. Grand Blvd., St. Louis
Tickets: $15-$75; metromix.com, call 314-534-1111 or visit the box office.