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Spongebob Squarepants: The Broadway Musical Provides a Zany Splash of Color to New York

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It has been about 18 ⅔ years since Spongebob Squarepants first aired on TVs nationwide.  Since that moment, the show has exploded in popularity, becoming one of Nickelodeon’s most well-known programs and amassing a merchandising empire of over $13 billion.  The next logical step for the franchise was an expansion into the world of theatre. With plans for a Spongebob Squarepants musical announced in 2015, expectations were high, and many questions arose.  How would the undersea life of Bikini Bottom be represented by real humans? What would the set look like?  Would the premise of the musical take a different turn from the show itself? Who will write the lyrics to the songs?

These questions were answered when the musical opened in 2016 for a run in Chicago and then moved to Broadway in December 2017 where it is running currently.  The results of the musical blew audiences away. From the ingenious costumes to the colorful and bright set design, viewers were able to see the extensive thought put into the show to ensure that it would be enjoyed by diverse audiences while maintaining its roots to the show.

Audience members entering the Palace Theatre on Broadway were immediately greeted with aisles and a stage decked from ceiling to floor to look like the calm coral reef Spongebob and his friends call home.  Blue streamers covered the walls, pool noodles were utilized to create coral and kelp, and neon flowers were hung to simulate the characteristic sky of Bikini Bottom. These set pieces were instrumental in bringing Spongebob’s world to life and really made viewers feel as if they were actually fellow sea creatures.  David Zinn, the designer of the musical, excelled in his job of capturing the watery world in the TV show and adapting it for a theatre.

The actors themselves did an excellent job of bringing the characters to life.  Ethan Slater, a redhead dressed in a yellow shirt, red tie, and brown pants, shines as the titular character and has the mannerisms and voice to boot.  His best friend Patrick Star is played by Danny Skinner, a jolly man fitted with a pink Hawaiian shirt, a green bathing suit, and a pink pompadour. Squidward Tentacles is portrayed by Gavin Lee, a British man who is able to nail Mr. Tentacles iconic voice to a tee and solves the “multiple legs” problem by adding prosthetics to the costume.  After seeing these characters act, sing, and dance about topics ranging from Mermaid Man to the Krusty Krab to their love of Bikini Bottom, one is unable to separate the character from the actor and cannot imagine anyone else who could portray the characters so accurately. Mr. Zinn once again perfectly nailed the costumes by transforming the characters’ outfits for humans to wear without having to put them in the bulky costumes one sees on Halloween.

The story is another commendable part of the show.  Written by Kyle Jarrow, Bikini Bottom is threatened with an apocalypse-creating volcano eruption, and Spongebob, Patrick, and Sandy are the only ones who can save their town.  Meanwhile, evil Plankton plots to use the citizens’ fear to persuade them to relocate to a city where his Chum Buckets will be the only restaurant available. All the while, the story addresses topical issues: the Mayor, in a bureaucratic fashion,  informs Bikini Bottom citizens that she will form a committee to discuss the issue of finding a solution to the volcanic crisis, and Sandy Cheeks encounters xenophobia from the citizens due to her being a squirrel from Texas. The script provides a balance of zaniness and emotion for Spongebob-lovers to enjoy, which increases the delight audiences will have.

The highlight of the show is the music.  The complete set of songs come from pop and rock heavyweights such as John Legend, David Bowie, Panic! At the Disco, The Plain White T’s, and Aerosmith.  Even rapper T.I. gets in on the underwater action by co-writing a hip-hop number complete with a rapping Plankton. The strength of the songwriters combined with the energy of the cast combines to create a tracklist filled with variety and intensity while also addressing the jokes and gags of the TV show.

A warning, however: If you are not a Spongebob Squarepants fan, or have not spent significant amounts of time with someone who does, it is very likely you won’t enjoy the musical.  The show relies heavily on translating all of the signature spontaneity and irreverent comedy from the silver screen to the stage.  Exhausted parents and Spongebob haters will find it hard to keep attention levels up.  But to those who have had Spongebob as a significant part of their childhood, get ready for quite possibly one of the most high-energy and exciting musicals you’ve ever seen.

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Spongebob Squarepants: The Broadway Musical Provides a Zany Splash of Color to New York