President Bush should have been at the Salt Palace on Monday night. There were 8,500 little points of light flashing off and on as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fans flipped off and on their battery-lighted orange plastic Ninja daggers. The interior of the main arena glowed with light of the little swords being hoisted in the dark and waved about by the Turtle-loving tots.
Little tykes from babes-in-arms to scrappy 8-year-olds were decked out in Turtle pants and shirts with Turtle plastic nun-chucks and Turtle swords. A new experience was awaiting them: a full-fledged rock concert with a high-tech set, flashing colored lights, fog; even a confetti-spitting cannon. From cartoon to movie screen to rock stage; the Turtles have triumphed again.Imagine a bank of 21-inch television screens six high and six wide on either side of the stage. Just like big-time rock star concerts, the Turtles were taped live, and the images played on the screens as the nimble Ninjas rocked out. The turtles - Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michaelangelo - are each identified by the color he wears. And you'd better believe the kids know who is who!
The Turtles friend and also a star of the Saturday morning cartoon show, reporter April O'Neal, opened the show by hyping up the kiddies with chants that only made sense to Turtle-lovers who know how much those reptilian warriors love pizza. "Pepperoni!" "Extra-cheese lover!" screamed first one side of the audience and then the other.
I brought my 14-year-old daughter, Brooke, who saw the Turtles' movie five times and enticed me to watch the video version. She loves the Turtles because of the witty dialogue that sounds to me like a not-so-literate "Rocky and Bullwinkle." (Rocky never had to depend on "DUDE" and "cowabunga" like the Turtles do.) Brooke's favorite line was when two of the Turtles hugged after a fight and Leonardo quips, "This is a Kodak moment!"
The Turtles have taken well the complaint that their movie was too violent for the parents of their fans. They explained that "You can do more good with music than with nun-chucks! You can touch people - you can make a difference." The fighting that dominated the movie had been replaced by fancy dance moves.
The Turtles sang "Out of our Shells" and "Pizza Power." Their mentor Master Splinter appeared on video and sang "Skipping Stones." And it wasn't too long until the man kids love to hate, "Shredder," appeared in a chain-mail costume with wonderful headgear. Brooke observed, "Shredder and his long boring speeches! Yawn!" While the Turtles played on unaware, Shredder was setting up his "Harmonic Convergence Controller" that would suck up all the music. Like an old-time melodrama, the little guys booed at this villain.
The Turtles rapped through a song with "M.C. Angelo," and even April O'Neal got into the swing with the song, "You Can Count on Us." Unfortunately, a few fans fell asleep while she sang.
Brooke thought the choreography was great. The music was pretty good (for three-fingered musicians they "played" pretty well!) and the Shredder conflict kept everyone all riled up. The kids were just plain thrilled. Four-year-old Daniel Taylor of Salt Lake City cheered for his favorite Michaelangelo. Alex Runolfson, 5, wore a Turtle costume from Australia and looked absolutely darling. But it was a contingent from Woods Cross High School that took the rabid fan prize. All juniors and seniors, Eric Petersen, Chris Ray, George Davis and Keith Mair faithfully screamed, waved their Turtle swords and cheered with excessive vigor.
"I have the Turtles' movie, stuffed dolls, action figures, sword, hat, key chain, shirt and bubble bath," said Eric. Bubble bath?? "I asked my girlfriend to the Junior Prom, and since she knew I'm a Turtles' fan, she answered me with a note on the bubble bath," Eric said. Brooke asked the boys what they thought of April O'Neal and was answered with an enthusiastic, "Oh baby!"
Lots of children were crying by the time the Turtles triumphed over Shredder (called an oversized kitchen utensil by April) and the singing and dancing was over. Most of them were up past their bedtimes at the 9 p.m. close of the show. But then again, most of them were crying as their parents grimly dragged them away from the $ouvenir $tand. (The Turtles concert program cost $10.) "But I want a sword! Please, please, please," sobbed one little fellow. With this exception, the Turtles had brought a lot of cheering, laughing and fun to their youthful fans.
The song themes were pretty solid, "fight to be free," "walk straight" and "follow your heart." There were some very funny adult moments when Shredder stole the music and a video showed a bow-tied gentleman with a pocket-protector holding his pens. He was working frantically on the speaker in an elevator and cried tragically, "Something stopped Ray Coniff right in the middle of `Bo Jangles!' " I have to admit, I had a good time.