It's Turtle time in Crabtown as rocking reptiles come to play

January 09, 1991|By Eric Siegel

Ready to be shell-shocked? The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are coming out of the sewer -- and getting up on stage.

Yeah, dudes, it's true: Those pizza-chompin', karate-choppin', three-fingered, web-footed, crime-fightin' heroes of the preteen set arrive at the Baltimore Arena tonight for eight shows through Sunday as part of a 40-city "Coming Out of Their Shells" tour.

Having already conquered television, movie theaters and video arcades -- not to mention toy stores, supermarkets and comic books -- Michaelangelo, Donatello, Leonardo and Raphael were more than ready to face a live audience when their tour began at none other than Radio City Music Hall in New York last September.

"It's basically a musical theater piece. . . . It's like a Broadway show," Bob Bejan, the show's producer and creative director, who brought the Turtles up from the underground, said in a recent telephone interview.

"It seemed like a natural," he added.

The show is set at a rock and roll concert, where the Turtles are making like the Beatles, except that they're singing "Pizza Power" instead of "I Wanna Hold Your Hand."

Of course, the show is not without a plot. The malevolent Shredder arrives and attempts to destroy the Turtles' music with "a deharmonic convergence controller."

Say, what?

"It's like a vacuum cleaner for music," explained Mr. Bejan.

Anyway, the Turtles can't defeat Shredder and his minions on their own.

"The kids in the audience have to get involved," the show's producer said, "and lead the Turtles back in their attack by singing the chorus to 'Count On Us,' " one of the show's songs.

But he insists that parents need not "pull their hair out" while their kids groove on the moves.

"We put in a lot of stuff that's multi-leveled," he said. "I think the music is sophisticated enough the adults kind of enjoy it as well as the kids."

Indeed, one adult reviewer, who attended a previous performance with his two young sons, said the show was "far better than . . . expected. It was imaginative, well-produced, technically sophisticated and surprisingly entertaining."

Mr. Bejan says the "violence issue" that the Turtles have taken "a lot of flak" over in other contexts is downplayed and social themes, such as the anti-drug message of the song "Walk Straight," are emphasized.

A 30-year-old one-time Broadway dancer who has produced shows and written jingles for companies ranging from MTV to IBM, he wrote the music for the Turtles "Coming Out of Their Shells" LP and is staging the tour with impresario Steven Leber, who brought the Moscow Circus to the Arena last fall.

Asked about the challenges of trying to create a show for an act already established in so many different mediums, he said, "The parameters are well-defined. You have to bring all that history to it. In that sense, it's harder.

"On the other hand, once the playpen is set up, it's easier to play there."

Mr. Bejan says his next project is a feature-length film tentatively titled "Future Kids," in which kids from the 24th century return and tell their counterparts today it's up to them to save the planet.

Seems like a natural.

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