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'Roundhouse' Gang Puts Out TV's Hippest, Funniest Show:

Isn't it interesting that the hippest, wittiest, most with-it show on television is aimed at kids 8-14 years old? That's what Nickelodeon's Roundhouse can boast.

The program features an 11-person ensemble of street-smart young dancers/actors/comedians. The show, a sort of modern-day "Zoom" (but without all the chit-chat), marries frenetic comedy bits with hip-hop/pop, courtesy of a sharp studio band. And somehow it manages to weave a plot line (buddies start a band, or a loner resists joining a gang) through the fast-paced, 30-minute Saturday night show (8:30 p.m. EST). The program is shot in real time on a single stage, which translates into lots of energy.

It helps that the production is loaded with talent, including the players (several destined for big-screen success), musicians, writers, and choreographer. In fact, the wonder-dance kid Barry Lather, who has plotted steps for Janet Jackson, Paula Abdul, and scores more, injects instant credibility with his moves.

In the band, guitarist Marty Walsh used to play for supertramp, while drummer John Pena once anchored Donna Summer's band. Contributing some of the show's songs since its August 1992 debut have been hit makers Randy Goodrum and Phil Galdstom.

Best of all, the comedy on "Roundhouse" "writing is top-shelf, particularly its parodies of commercials and movies. (Dennis the Menace to Society; Mr. WILSON!)" Not surprisingly, since the show flies by at such a breakneck, media-saturated pace, the show has landed a loyal collegiate following, along with a legion of 'tweeners.

According to "Roundhouse" executive producers Rita Sheffield and Benny Hester (Buddy Sheffield is the show's third mastermind), kids today are able to take in an incredible amount of information, are amazingly sophisticated, and, most of all, can spot a fake a mile away. Authenticity is one element "Roundhouse" has plenty of.

The folks at the show are in discussions with various labels about making a mainstream pop record (not a kids' record). In fact, a 30-city live tour is in the works for 1995, to coincide with a possible "Roundhouse" release.

Oh, yeah, "Roundhouse" also has TV's coolest theme song, sung a capella at the end of each show. So, as they say on "Roundhouse," repeat the theme song and roll the credits.

Whenever my life gets me so down
I know I can go down
To where the music and the fun never ends.
As long as the music is playing,
You know what I'm saying.
I know that I can find a friend.
Down at the Roundhouse.

by Eric Boehlert
March 19, 1994