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He Says: SpongeBob SquarePants – The Broadway Musical Can A Sponge Really Be Sexy?!?

He Says: SpongeBob SquarePants – The Broadway Musical Can A Sponge Really Be Sexy?!?
Wow. Who would have thunk it? That a musical based on a children’s animated television show, centered on a live square sponge living on the ocean floor would turn out to be such silly and magnificent fun. It’s difficult to imagine. Only the optimistic lead sponge that goes by the name of SpongeBob SquarePants would and could foresee such a thing. But fun and smart and festive and joyful it is. In spades. And that’s not even the half of it.
There is so much more than what meets the eye, and a lot meets the eye when entering the Palace Theatre on Broadway.  It’s a colorful spectacle that feels intoxicating and exciting before the show even begins. This is all thanks to the impossibly interesting work by set and costumer designer, David Zinn (Fun Home, Torch Song), projection designer, Peter Nigrini (Dear Evan Hansen), sound, Walter Trarbach (Doctor Zhivago), and lighting designer, Kevin Adams (Hedwig and The Angry Inch). All lead by the team captain extraordinaire, director Tina Landau (Signature’s Old Hats) who steered far away from theme park visuals and dynamics to find a place uniquely SpongeBob, and I’m sure the producers are all breathing one big sigh of relief.
SpongeBob SquarePants The Broadway Musical for EveryoneIn the lead, Ethan Slater (DTC’s Diner, 59E59’s PEMBAS) making his Broadway debut, gives about the best performance of a sponge that one could hope for. He’s solidly spongey, in a way that is beyond description, thoroughly engaging and wondrously talented. His voice is super strong and his stage presence is undeniable. He’s the sexiest and most appealing non-human musical theater character that I’ve ever encountered. If this doesn’t nab him a Tony nomination, I’m not sure what will, but I doubt he needs to worry.
SpongeBob SquarePants The Broadway Musical for EveryoneAs his best friends and neighbors in the underwater village of Bikini Bottom, Danny Skinner (Araca Project’s Pluck the Day, Broadway debut) is an absolutely brilliant Patrick Star and as Sandy Cheeks, the only land mammal to stand with SquareBob, the irresistible Lilli Cooper (OBC’s Spring Awakening) shines. It’s a strong team of friends and that musical moral, most beautifully and hilariously set forth in two rousing numbers, “BFF” (written by ‘Plain White T’s’ and “Hero Is My Middle Name” (written by Cyndi Lauper & Rob Hyman), is strongly stated throughout. These are the kind of friends who I’d love to have my back, and I’m not particular fond of shell fish.
SpongeBob SquarePants The Broadway Musical for Everyone
There isn’t a rotten fish in the pot in SpongeBob SquarePants – The Broadway Musical.  Gavin Lee (Disney’s Mary Poppins) gives a star making performance in the show stopper “I’m Not A Loser” (written by ‘They Might Be Giants’) as Squidward Q. Tentacles, as does the power house singer, Joi’Len Christine Li Josey (a 2014 Jimmy Award winner, Broadway debut) as the young Pearl Krabs. The whole show is all about inclusion, acceptance, and the power of science and good friends.  Every underwater creature is playing their part swimmingly. I say this with absolutely no knowledge of the television show what-so-ever, but the characters, whether they are actually true to the television series or not (I’m gathering they are from the audience’s excited reactions) are solidly structuredand presented, especially the villain, Sheldon Plankton, evilly played by the funny Wesley Taylor (Rock of Ages).
His dastardly plot, assisted by the one character I couldn’t wrap my head around (what is she, a computer?), Karen, played with spunk and charm by Stephanie Hsu (Be More Chill), is ridiculous and supremely evil/silly, but in this musical, it doesn’t need to be anything beyond a Michael Myers/Dr. Evil plot for world domination, but under water, and concerning only the one small village of Bikini Bottom. Sheldon’s sight is small in scope, unlike this show that has Broadway domination on its mind.
SpongeBob SquarePants The Broadway Musical for Everyone
A LOT of money has been spent bringing this successful marketing machine of a Nickelodeon character to the stage. The music credits alone would give any producer pause, financially speaking. With the likes of Cyndi Lauer, Rage Against the Machine, Aerosmith, Sara Bareilles, Lady Attebellum, John Legend, David Bowie and Brian Eno, the thematic idea could have been mashed up and diluted into a murky soup, but somehow, with help from musical supervision, orchestrations, arrangements, and some additional music by Tom Kitt (Next to Normal) and musical direction by Julie McBride (Second Stage’s Next to Normal), the aura has been contained and the style un-mussed. Maybe the book by Kyle Jarrow (The Wildness) helped congeal this musical hodgepodge into something remarkably cohesive. It’s no The Band’s Visit or Dear Evan Hansen, but it’s also not a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory dibacal either, not even close. Time will tell if it is a success financially, but as an artistic endeavor, they have surprised the Broadway world and hit that pineapple out of the park.
SpongeBob SquarePants The Broadway Musical for Everyone
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My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to

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