I must admit last week there were a few moments when I was worried I had bit off more than I could chew with SpongeBob SquarePants The Musical. Per usual, I had gathered a group to attend the 1pm show on Sunday while the show is still in previews. However, this group spiraled into a much larger group than I am used to managing. That is all well and fine and I survived and learned a few things along the way, BUT it did make me anxious to be somewhat responsible for all of these 203 people’s afternoons. What if something went wrong?
Well, phew. SpongeBob SquarePants delivered. Thank you Mr. SquarePants and please forgive my wavering confidence in you. I know for a fact, that many in my group entered the theater not knowing much about the title character and anything they did know was from the cartoon. Turns out the director of the show, Tina Landau, was in this same boat and would only agree to take on the show if she could return it to it’s “indie spirit.” I recommend you read the article that is in the Playbill about her and her creative process. She sums the show up as “a celebration of the surreal” with a “DIY mentality.”
The show reminded me of my favorite indoor roller coaster ride at Hershey Park, Laff Trakk, where the lights are bright and one glides gently from one glowing fun house image to the next. The show had a very amusement park feel – and maintained an amazing energy throughout the performance. The attention to detail on the set and with the costumes was remarkably creative. The use of carefully orchestrated sound effects to further bring Bikini Bottom to life for the audience was genius.
The incredibly nimble Ethan Slater as SpongeBob, nailed his winsome character. Danny Skinner was hilarious as slow in the head, but super lovable sidekick Patrick Star. Gavin Lee, and all of his legs, as Squidward was a wonder and his culminating Chorus Line-esque song and dance number was standing ovation worthy. Wesley Taylor, playing Sheldon Plankton, was very Dr. Evil-ish and for a few minutes had me thinking I was at Hamilton during his rap performance. And hear this… Jai’len Christine Li Josey, who played Pearl, is going places. I could listen to her sing all day long.
The music in the show is a compilation of songs from a huge variety of artists including Sara Bareilles, David Bowie, Cindy Lauper, Lady Antebellum, John Legend and so many more. I can’t even begin to imagine the complexity involved in putting all of this together, but Tom Kitt does it masterfully. Read this post to learn more about his process.
The show is fun. The show has spirit. Out of the gates the show had curb appeal – just walking into the theater felt like an event. Being there with everyone in our group was an event. Seeing all of the smiles that were generated by this show was absolutely priceless and worth every anxious… “what if?”
While I recommend this show, I think the words of my 10 year old neighbor really bring it home. He said, “I thought it was better than Hamilton and I told all my friends at school to go see it!” So, Grab Your Group (young and old) and GO SEE SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS on Broadway!
BONUS: Our biggest group ever was treated to a talk back after the show. The questions that came from the group made me smile, especially from the littlest members of our group. Thank you to Tom Kitt and the cast for staying to speak with us on this very busy day!