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Interview w/ Coming Out of Their Shells Tour David Shatraw

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Coming Out of Their Shells Tour (1990) is a surreal piece-of-work…

SHATRAW: (Laughing) Yes, that Radio City Music Hall performance was crazy… Recently, someone on the internet leaked out some footage of our preview performance of the show from Rhode Island. On the first show, we had the actual Turtle shells on your backs. It was a disaster and we couldn’t even get through the show because the Turtle shell weighed so much. It was just too hard to wear the shell and do the dance choreography at the same time. None of us could do it. The shell would knock against your lower legs. Literally, the night before we were to leave for the national tour of Coming Out of Their Shells, the producers made the decision to get rid of the shells. The thing I remember most about that was seeing Producers [Bob Bejan & Thomas White] standing there watching all of their Turtles Shells being dumped into a giant trash disposal to be destroyed. They had to destroy like $50,000 dollars worth of those Turtles shells.

We’ve always wondered where the Turtles got those fun bedazzled-jean jackets that they wear during Coming Out of Their Shells…

SHATRAW: It was because of the shells not working. They had to rush to get those jackets done in time too for the Coming Out of Their Shells first show after that preview.

What was the Coming Out of Their Shells tour experience like for you?

SHATRAW: Well, it was pretty crazy. The show had its’ own roadies, and these guys had just come off of tour with ZZ Top. The show had nine semi-trucks of equipment traveling across the United States with those stage sets and pyrotechnics. We were supposed to spend a week in each major city that we traveled to. Then something happened…the Gulf War broke out. The minute that happened, everything went completely downhill. Venues started canceling on us. We had to down-scale the show–taking it from nine semi-trucks with all of our equipment down to just two trucks. We ended up down 140 one-night shows across the United States. People just weren’t willing to send there kids out to the show. No-one wanted to celebrate due to the Gulf War.
The show that was filmed for the Radio City Music Hall pay-per-view special was literally the last of our big shows. We performed there in New York City and from there the show was down-scaled and we began doing the show across the country in community centers and in high school gyms.

Wow, that’s crazy. Judging from the Radio City Music Hall performance, the show was pretty large-scale too…

SHATRAW: I know. In fact when the Producers pitched the show it was green-lit instantly. They didn’t even have to explain what they wanted to do for the show. They had envisioned the show as a major rock concert. They didn’t even have to sit down and introduce themselves to Pizza Hut. Pizza Hut wanted to be apart of it. When we preformed at Radio City Music Hall–that was the biggest version of the show that we did. When that Radio City Music Hall show was announced it sold out in minutes, and they said afterward, that the Turtles show sold more concert merchandise than any other show that had ever come through Radio City Music Hall. And then…we went to playing a community center that held 700 kids. And those kids sat on folding chairs.

How did you get the role of Michelangelo in Coming Out of Their Shells Tour?

SHATRAW: They had an open-call audition for the part and I just went in for it. They were looking for dancers or actors who could move well. I wasn’t a professional dancer, but I could move well. I went in to the open call, and I literally expected to be cut in the first-round of auditions. But I wasn’t. You went in and they taught you 16-measures of a dance routine. Once you felt comfortable enough with the routine they would call in front to audition. Then you’d go outside and wait to see if your number would be called for you to return in the next round of auditions. After I finished auditioning, I went outside, and backed my bag. Because I thought that I was terrible. I finished packing my bag, and I picked it up and went and stood over by the exit. But they called me back in. And then I made it threw the second round. Then they told us that we needed to take the weekend and learn one of the Turtles songs from the show. They wanted us to come back on Monday to lip-sync the song and dance along with it. They said, “It doesn’t matter if you know the words or not, we just want to see you move while you’re singing it.” Years later, I’m still friends with the Producer of the show Tom White. I said to him not too long ago: “Why? Why? Why? Did you cast me in that?” He said, “Because it was what you wrote on your audition card.” They had given everyone who was auditioning a little white card to fill out, it was like a job application almost. Where it said: Musicial Theatre Experience–I wrote: This is my first experience and will probably be my last. Tom said that he thought that that was funny. So I was cast and we started to rehearse the show for weeks-and-weeks.

Did the show ever get any negative feedback in the media? In re-visiting the pay-per-view special I was quite taken with how actor Shredder [actor Beau Allen] takes the time to antagonize the kids in the audience by calling them “little punks.”

SHATRAW: (laughing) There were times when we got criticized for being too spiritual. And it was criticized for not being more interactive. Beau did get criticized for that, for sure. The Producers really pushed him to get the kids in the audience against him. They wanted the kids to be screaming at him. That kind of stuff was acceptable then, but I don’t think that you could get away with that today. I can remember, Beau would go out there and he would tell the kids that they should lie to their parents! (laughing)

The Author

Justin Bozung

Justin Bozung

Justin Bozung is a film researcher/writer based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He has written for such print publications as Shock Cinema, Fangoria, Paracinema, Whoa, Bijou and Phantom Of The Movies' Videoscope.

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