University of the Arts grad Lorenzo Pugliese plays SpongeBob SquarePants in the musical’s first national tour.

-Brenda Hillegas
photos by Jeremy Daniel

Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?

You know who.

The Tony-winning SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical is about to flood the Forrest Theatre and hopefully you’ll come along for the journey. In the role of SpongeBob himself is Lorenzo Pugliese, a Scranton-born actor who just graduated from Philadelphia’s University of the Arts last spring. I talked to Lorenzo over the phone while he was enjoying some downtime during the show’s stop in Oklahoma.

My first questions were pretty obvious- how does it feel to play a character as iconic as SpongeBob SquarePants in the musical’s first national tour? And on top of that, how does it feel to land this role just out of college? 

“Amazing,” Lorenzo simply says. “It feels like I won the lottery.”

Prior to even being aware that a SpongeBob musical existed, friends compared Lorenzo to the spongy Nickelodeon character. Lorenzo’s girlfriend even bought him tickets to see the show on Broadway before it closed, telling him it would be a good “character research” opportunity for the future. As a sophomore, one of Lorenzo’s friends even predicted that the role would be his one day. “My friend told me about this new musical on Broadway and that if I ever had the chance to audition, I needed to,” Lorenzo says.

That chance came this past March when open calls took place for the tour. “I took the bus in [to New York] from Philly, running on about an hour of sleep,” he laughed. “Then I didn’t hear anything for two weeks. A friend got a call back a week before, so I thought they didn’t want me.” 

o - SpongeBob SquarePants_(Lorenzo Pugliese)

But in May, just before graduating from college- and after many more call backs- Lorenzo found out that he got the role! He credits his time at University of the Arts and the school’s desire to help their students become unique and well rounded for his ability to take on the role of SpongeBob. “They weren’t trying to turn students into cookie cutter theatre performers,” he says.

Lorenzo grew up in Scranton. He was really into sports, but his dad encouraged him to take piano lessons as well. The summer before 7th grade, his piano teacher- who was part of a local community theatre- mentioned that they were in need of male roles for their upcoming show. Lorenzo agreed to audition and landed a lead part. “When I got up on stage for the first time, I knew theatre would be a big part of my life.”

As a kid, Lorenzo was also huge fan of SpongeBob SquarePants, the television series. “I would open my window each morning and say ‘good morning world and all who inhabit it!’ And now it’s the first line I say in the musical”

The musical features an amazing collection of original songs, written by popular musicians like Panic at the Disco, They Might Be Giants, Lady Antebellum, The Flaming Lips and many more. Lorenzo particularly loves “(I Guess I) Miss You” by John Legend, calling it a beautiful number about what it feels like to miss someone. 

There’s not much guessing in how much Lorenzo misses his second home of Philadelphia, though. “I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I left,” he says. “To come back and do this [show] is such a privilege.”

Come on down to Bikini Bottom…well, Philly…and have a blast with SpongeBob, Patrick and friends this December. The show runs from December 3rd through the 15th, and tickets are available here.

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