SPRINGFIELD, MO — News broke on Thursday (July 6, 2017) that Blue Man Group has been sold to Cirque du Soleil for “tens of millions of dollars,” according to an article in the New York Times.
“After the acquisition, Blue Man will be able to tap into Cirque’s worldwide access to theaters and marketers. In particular, both organizations have their eye on China, home to one of the most powerful and quickly growing entertainment industries in the world,” said the Times.
One of the three co-founders is Phil Stanton, a 1983 graduate of Evangel University.
Stanton moved to New York City following graduation, met Chris Wink and Matt Goldman, and by 1988, the blue men concept had started to take shape. The show, Blue Man Group, was founded in 1991, and the act has since been seen in live performances by more than 35 million people.
A dynamic combination of art, music, comedy and technology, Blue Man Group has grown from an oddity to an international phenomenon, with theatres in New York, Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas, Orlando, Berlin, plus a world touring group of blue men.
Building the Blue Man brand awareness were numerous televised performances from Jay Leno to Ellen, to WOWOW (Japan), to a wide array of Intel Pentium commercials.
A 2012 interview in Fortune Magazine provided a glimpse into the group’s plans for the future.
“We’re a brand that has to diversify to get to the next level,” said Stanton. “We’re looking to expand the theatrical business and go into other media. We’re interested in creating a company that will go on after we’re no longer on the earth. I suppose expanding our creative bandwidth is the beginning of a succession plan.”
Stanton’s start in theatre
“Phillip had never even attended a theatre production before enrolling at Evangel, but once here, he excelled,” remembered David Smith, retired professor of theatre at Evangel University.
In 2012, the Springfield News-Leader interviewed Stanton on the occasion of BMG’s touring group coming to Springfield. According to the article, “Stanton said he learned things from Smith that remain ‘incredibly important, even to this day.’
“What I learned from David helped a lot with our stylized characters,” he said. “David is a real classicist, and I’ve always really appreciated what I learned at Evangel — lighting, directing and acting, a little bit of everything.”
Smith commented in the same article, “Phil was very innovative when he was here. He learned everything he could from me, then went beyond that. Maybe I laid a little bit of a foundation for him, but he was already creative.”
Smith cast Stanton as John Proctor in “The Crucible,” as Tony Lumpkin in the 18th Century play “She Stoops to Conquer,” and as Orlando in Shakespeare’s “As you Like It.”
“As a senior, Phil directed his own production of ‘The Rainmaker’ by Richard Nash,” said Smith. “He made props and sets that were unbelievable.”
Springfieldian Lori (Heaster) Lawley remembers the creative genius Stanton exhibited in the production of “The Rainmaker.” She played the part of Lizzie.
“Bruce (as he was known then) was creative and innovative,” she said. “He was quite skilled at making the show an experience. I remember we cooked bacon on a hot plate right before the doors opened, so when the audience came in, they would feel as if they walked into my kitchen at breakfast time.”
She also remembers the sets that Smith referenced.
“He was always trying to figure out how to do things in a creative way,” said Lawley. “We spent hours building an entire fireplace out of large Styrofoam sheets that we used acetone on to make it look like a real fireplace. It was a creative solution back then.”
Smith was a new professor when Stanton attended Evangel, and Stanton was his first theatre major to graduate. As a student, he spent a lot of time in the Smith home. The two have remained in contact over the years.
“Years later, Phil took (Dave’s wife) Susan, (son) Andrew and I to Times Square for dinner, and then we were his guests at the show,” said Smith. “When he was on TV, he would call and say ‘Mr. Smith, I’m on Jay Leno tonight.’”
Smith retired in 2013. Now he volunteers with one of his former students — and one of Stanton’s classmates — Dr. Vickie (Vanzant) Wisdom, director of the theatre program at Evangel. In fact, Smith is currently designing the sets for the planned fall production of “A Christmas Carol.”
• Blue Man Group — https://www.blueman.com/about-blue-man-group
• New York Times article (July 6, 2017) — https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/06/theater/cirque-du-soleil-buys-blue-man-group.html
• Fortune article (Oct. 2, 2012) — http://fortune.com/2012/10/02/how-blue-man-group-learned-to-see-green/
• Springfield News-Leader article (Feb. 15, 2012) — firewalled; quoted from excerpts on the Evangel website — http://www.evangel.edu/2012/02/16/behind-the-scenes-of-how-an-evangel-grad-created-the-blue-man-group/