Ninja Turtles strut stuff at Baltimore Arena

January 10, 1991|By Randi Henderson

If you're 4 or 5 or 6 years old, it's a cinch you'll be crazy about those four weird-looking dudes dancing and singing (sort of) and strutting their stuff at the Baltimore Arena this week.

If you're the parent of a young one, chances are you'll get a kick out of the pleasure your child takes in America's newest folk heroes, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and you might even sit back and enjoy some of their tunes.

And if you fit into neither of these categories -- well, then, you probably have very little interest in the "Coming Out of Their Shells" tour, and it doesn't really matter that, to the non-initiate to the Turtle world, this show is basically lame, derivative and exceedingly predictable.

But the kids at last night's opening loved it. They booed the villain -- the evil Shredder, whose mission is to rid the world of music -- and they cheered the heroes, and they clapped along with the songs that many of them know by heart.

The kids didn't care that Shredder looked and sounded incredibly like another villain we all love to hate, one Darth Vader. It didn't matter to them that -- despite the fact that this show is billed as a "live rock and roll tour" -- barely a word uttered or note sung or played actually came from the live actor's mouth or musical instrument. Everything is on tape, of course, because how could rubber-masked, three-fingered actors sing or play an instrument?

The format is more Broadway musical than rock show. Dialogue carries the plot, in the context of a few rock'n'roll trappings: light shows, fireworks. For a kindergartner, this might do for a rock'n'roll experience. A middle schooler would certainly not be fooled.

The music itself is generic rock'n'roll with several basic rock numbers, a rap piece, a surfing song, a torchy number. The dancing was adequate and sometimes a little better than that; dancing was the best part of the show because it was the only thing that seemed real.

But let's face it, this show isn't about singing or dancing. This show is about -- merchandising. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have become a genuine American merchandising phenomenon. And there's no better proof than the crowds that fought to spend $28 for a sweat shirt, $16 for a T-shirt, $6 for a mask, $7 for an inflatable turtle. . . .

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