Photo by Jeremy Daniel
It’s going to be pretty bubbly here in Philadelphia as The SpongeBob Musical takes over The Forrest Theatre through December 15th. Creator/director Tina Landau and a Tony Award-winning design team bring SpongeBob and his friends to life on stage with a bright, perfectly over-the-top, fun show. Believe it or not, this animated series translates beautifully into a Broadway production fit for all ages with big musical numbers and catchy songs you’ll be singing all the way home. SpongeBob SquarePants has been on television for 17 years and the musical adaptation received twelve Tony Award nominations in 2018; those achievements alone should encourage you to swim to the theatre!
Don’t expect to see elaborate costumes and make up transforming each cast member into an actual sponge or starfish or squirrel. Instead, everyone looks just like us; human beings on stage in simple, colorful attire (such as plaid pants and a yellow shirt for SpongeBob or a bright, big flower for Sandy Cheeks). The actors bring the neighborhood of Bikini Bottom to life by highlighting the mannerisms and personalities of each character as they were developed on the television show. As a result, SpongeBob, Patrick, Squidward, Sandy and everyone else become so much more relatable to the audience…because they are like us!
Lorenzo Pugliese is fantastic as SpongeBob and is just as funny and quirky as the original yellow sponge himself. Philadelphia should especially come out to support this recent graduate from the University of the Arts and hopefully everyone will agree that this guy was born to play SpongeBob.
In The SpongeBob Musical, a news report reveals that Bikini Bottom is about to be destroyed by a giant volcano that will erupt within the next day. Adults in the audience will soon see comparisons to the real-life topics we hear about daily. The town’s people begin to turn on one another and place blame where there shouldn’t be blame at all. They question the government, the media, the “outsiders” (like Sandy who is the only mammal living in Bikini Bottom), science. Antagonists Sheldon Plankton (played by Tristan McIntyre) and Karen the Computer (Caitlin Ort), as well as Krusty Krab owner Eugene Krabs (Zach Kononov), find ways to benefit from the situation.
SpongeBob, of course, puts his always positive outlook on the conflict in hopes for a resolution and enlists his friends to help save their world. Pugliese’s cheerful attitude, as SpongeBob, is infectious. Kids will see his courage and the importance of stepping up, teamwork, friendship, and optimism! SpongeBob teaches all of us to look on the bright side, be grateful for the good things, and spread your joy to others. Act Two’s “Best Day Ever” reminds us of what really matters in life.
One of the most unique elements of this show is the music. Unlike most Broadway musicals, this one includes a compilation of original songs written by artists like Sara Bareilles, Panic! at the Disco, John Legend, They Might Be Giants, Cyndi Lauper, The Flaming Lips, and so many more. Even David Bowie is a part of the incredible line-up.
Lady Antebellum’s “Chop to the Top” is a great duet by Pugliese and Daria Pilar Redus (Sandy Cheeks). The songs, paired with the scenic designs and costumes, create a stunning visual theater experience. No wonder this show won Best Scenic Design at the Tony’s and received a nomination for Best Costume Design. Other stand numbers include Panic! at the Disco’s “Just a Simple Song” which uses neon glowing sponges that dance around SpongeBob and the song’s reprise which requires a very limber and fit Pugliese to climb up and through a stack of ladders. Wow! Beau Bradshaw, as Patrick Star, is hilarious and his presences features some of the best color schemes of the show, with pink and neon greens creating a happy atmosphere for the stage and the audience. And of course Cody Cooley as Squidward Q. Tentacles steals any scene he is in. His big, showstopping number is They Might Be Giant’s “I’m Not a Loser” and it’s such a joy to watch.
The plot of The SpongeBob Musical could very easily be translate into a special SpongeBob movie event for Nickelodeon. Instead, someone trusted that Broadway was a better fit. And it truly was. This show is one-of-a-kind and worth a family night out. There’s a meowing snail (Gary!), bubbles, streamers, expandable objects, digital screens, and the brightest colors Broadway ever did see! There’s also important messages no matter how old (or young) you are. SpongeBob radiates happiness, encourages underdogs to rise to the top, and stresses the importance of community. We all should take a page out of SpongeBob’s book and make a trip to Bikini Bottom.
Tickets are available here.