Nickelodeon may have had highly absorbent success with “SpongeBob SquarePants” as an animated children’s series since 1999, but what would it look like without the cartoon quality, some increased adult appeal and a translation to Broadway? The answer arrived at the Oriental Theatre for the world premiere of “The SpongeBob Musical” Sunday night, and given the loveable characters, inventive staging and all-star soundtrack, fans and newcomers alike are destined to soak up all the fun with equal enthusiasm.
Additional appeal comes from the cross-section of entirely new songs crafted by the all-star likes of David Bowie, Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, Cyndi Lauper, John Legend, The Flaming Lips, Lady Antebellum, Plain White T’s, Yolanda Adams and They Might Be Giants (amongst many others).
Under the direction of Steppenwolf’s ingenious Tina Landau, a book by Kyle Jarrow, orchestrations, arrangements and music supervision by Tom Kitt and choreography by Christopher Gattelli, the venue literally becomes Bikini Bottom for a night, not only on the traditional stage, but also the sides of the venue and ceiling with an endless array of the most vibrant accessories of the fictional, sea-faring town. From pink umbrellas being used for jellyfish, beach balls simulating boulders, a slinky couch, plus an endless supply of streamers, bubbles and balloons, there’s instant visual appeal from the onset, which only swells once the human incarnation of SpongeBob and company leap to life.
Ethan Slater absolutely owns his leading role, sounding exactly like the star as he insists ever so optimistically today will be the “Best Day Ever.” However, that’s all before he and fellow citizens such as Squidward (Gavin Lee), Plankton (Nick Blaemire), Sandy (Lilli Cooper), Mr. Krabs (Carlos Lopez) and Patrick (Danny Skinner) learn a volcano (Mount Humongous) is on the verge of erupting and could very well wipe out their entire existence, though being an endless optimist, even that dreadful news can’t damper the mood.
The same can’t be said about his fellow townsfolk led by a kooky Mayor (Gaelen Gilliland), who completely freak out in the wake of the impending apocalypse. Yet the unlikely team of SpongeBob, his best bud Patrick and scientific researcher Sandy hatch a plan to save them all that consists of climbing to the very top and tossing a carefully calculated potion to plug the volcano.
Of course, that’s not the only idea hatched amongst Bikini Bottom residents and the dastardly Plankton in particular has a scheme up his sleeve to thwart the pals of their possible solution. Along the adventure, there are also plenty of lessons for the little ones right up through grown-ups, including the need to believe in oneself (Squidward and his Sea Anemones’ triumphant “I’m Not A Loser”), the importance of clinging tightly to a lifelong friendship and always keeping an open mind when it comes to an unlikely hero.
Additional appeal comes from the cross-section of entirely new songs crafted by the all-star likes of David Bowie, Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, Cyndi Lauper, John Legend, The Flaming Lips, Lady Antebellum, Plain White T’s, Yolanda Adams and They Might Be Giants (amongst many others). Combine it all with a death-defying finale featuring some of the most skillful scaffolding synchronization in Broadway history, and “The SpongeBob Musical” is definitely on track to delight.
Click here for “The SpongeBob Musical” Yellow Carpet photos from the Oriental Theatre.