Broadway musicals are often centered around childhood classics: “The Lion King,” “Aladdin,” even “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” One classic I loved growing up that I never expected to see hit the stage, however, is Nickelodeon legend “Spongebob Squarepants.” This show was one of my favorites growing up and it opened my imagination and crafted my sense of humor due to it’s outrageous fantastical absurdism. If I had a nickel for every time I quoted the renowned show in a context it didn’t fit, I’d have enough money to buy the entire Krusty Krab. So naturally, when I heard it was on Broadway and my lovely friend Alice had tickets to see it, I jumped at the chance to attend.
Spongebob Squarepants the Musical revolves around the conflict that a volcano is going to erupt and destroy Bikini Bottom. The naturally sprightly Spongebob wants to find a way to save the day, while his other aquatic friends make plans to skip town. The show is surprisingly culturally relevant, from the fish who blame Sandy the Squirrel for their impending demise since she’s a mammal, to the fish news media fear-mongering the town into a worse panic. Spongebob figures out he must set out to save the day no matter the fear, doubt or interference of evil schemes by a one Mr. Plankton (Wesley Taylor). The most important piece of this, though, is how it maintains an especially cheery tone despite being about the inevitable apocalypse, as Spongebob the cartoon very often achieved happiness even in dull, scary scenarios.
The $20 million budget for Spongebob allowed director Tina Landau to really take the reigns on this production and immerse the audience into the underwater world we’ve grown to love. She incorporated the style and flair of the original Spongebob and brought it to life on a theatrical stage, which off-hand didn’t seem like it would work. Spongebob was merely a cartoon to me, a funny short show that could lift my spirits and help me relax after a hard day of third grade. After seeing how beautifully theatrical it could be in my early adulthood, my mind changed and started leaning towards “How did no one do this sooner?” It made perfect sense for me to see Vassar graduate Ethan Slater dancing and singing around Bikini Bottom in the classic sponge get-up with his trusty friends Patrick (Danny Skinner) and Sandy (Lilli Cooper) since the original essence was captured so stunningly.
To pinpoint my favorite part of the show is a useless endeavor since it excelled in everything from the stunning set and costumes to the intricate lighting and superb casting. Although, I’d have to say that it’s the music that makes this production unbeatable. A star-studded musical crew came together for the score, including musicians like David Bowie, Aerosmith, Panic! At The Disco, John Legend and more. Never would I have guessed that bands and musicians as talented as these would come together for a show about a singing sponge. The soundtrack is insanely catchy and the choreography is majorly impressive. Squidward (Gavin Lee) has a huge tap number, which he does with all four of his legs! Plankton raps and break dances! The show takes Spongebob fans on a wild ride where we get to see our beloved characters going the extra mile and truly coming to life, from 2D to 3D, before our very eyes. From top to bottom, pineapple house to goo lagoon, this show is a dream come true for Spongebob fans young and all grown up.