Blue Man Group bought by Cirque du Soleil, eyes leap into China

The Blue Man Group performing with PVC pipes.
The Blue Man Group performing with PVC pipes.PHOTO: ST FILE

NEW YORK (NYT) - For almost 30 years, Blue Man Group has pervaded pop culture around the world with its eclectic, nonverbal percussive performances, zany lights and comedic movements. (OK, fine. Dancing.) And of course, there is the blue body paint from head to toe.

Now, the Blue Men are joining the circus.

Cirque du Soleil, the global performance juggernaut best known for its acrobatic circus displays, on Thursday announced that it had acquired Blue Man Productions, with the mutual aim of expanding Blue Man's reach beyond its five permanent US shows (in New York, Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas and Orlando, Florida), a world tour and one permanent international show (Berlin).

After the acquisition, Blue Man will be able to tap into Cirque's worldwide access to theatres and marketers. In particular, both organisations have their eye on China, home to one of the most powerful and quickly growing entertainment industries in the world.

"We saw the potential for a marketing and distributing powerhouse like Cirque du Soleil to be able to distribute Blue Man Group and make their brand better known internationally," said Cirque's chief executive Daniel Lamarre, in an interview. Cirque currently has 18 live shows worldwide.

The purchase provided an opportunity for Cirque to diversify its portfolio after years of financial tumult. In 2015, the company sold a majority stake to TPG, a private equity firm in Texas.

"The acquisition of Blue Man, for us, is kind of a breakthrough to make clear to people that Cirque is going from a circus company to becoming a global leader of entertainment," Mr Lamarre said.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed, although Mr Lamarre said the sale price was in the "tens of millions". There have been no discussions about combining Cirque and Blue Man onstage, nor has either side expressed hope for such a collaboration.

"The Blue Man Group will keep its autonomy," he said. "We're not going to mix the Cirque du Soleil brand with the brand of Blue Man Group."