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Theatre Review: Spongebob the Musical

Graphic by Luca Rivera

Graphic by Luca Rivera

Graphic by Luca Rivera

Gavin Woods, Senior, Co-Editor in Chief

As a one-time avid viewer of the iconic show that united an entire generation, I was skeptical when I heard that Spongebob Squarepants: The Broadway Musical was hitting theaters. “After 17 years of watching Spongebob on TV, how can they convert this into a live setting,” I wondered. “The colors are too bright, the sounds are too animated, and Plankton is too small,” I thought to myself. While I was delighted at the thought of reliving this childhood memory, some part of me became worried that this musical would do Spongebob an injustice. My curiosity got the better of me and I decided to see a Saturday matinee. All my apprehensions about this musical subsided when I read the playbill which advertised “Featuring Original Songs by: Stephen Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Sara Bareilles, John Legend, T.I., The Plain White T’s, and David Bowie.”
I was not alone in my fears regarding this musical idea; many thought this was a novelty idea but nothing more. Spongebob Squarepants: The Broadway Musical could have flopped as badly as The Amazing Spider Man. Nevertheless, Spongebob stormed Broadway in spectacular fashion, selling out their first three performances. The Huffington Post even named the musical, “The Surprise Hit of the Broadway Season.”

While it’s difficult to articulate exactly what made this musical work, it’s easy to see why it has received such high acclaim. Aside from the obvious attraction of the songwriters, Spongebob Squarepants: The Broadway Musical showcases an incredible array of young actors, most notably: Ethan Slater as Spongebob. From singing to dancing to breathtaking acrobatics, and even the trademark Spongebob Squarepants giggles, this 24 year-old lead has proved it possible to portray a sponge as a person in live theater. Among the standout characters in Bikini Bottom was Squidward Q. Tentacles, played by Broadway veteran, Gavin Lee. With what I would imagine are rather heavy, prosthetic tentacles on his backside, Lee plays the martyr role that we’ve all come to associate with Squidward. Gavin Lee is even featured in a solo number entitled, “I’m Not a Loser” written by They Might Be Giants, in which he puts his extra limbs to good use in a dazzling tap dance sequence. Another crowd favorite was Jai’len Christine Li Josey, who took on the role of Pearl Krabs. This 19 year old Georgia native was a show stopper standing at six feet three inches tall with a belt voice that would put any whale to shame. Ironically, Josey has a distant connection to PMHS, as she won the 2014 Jimmy Award, for which our own Sock ‘n’ Buskin alum Sara Liddy was also nominated.

If you’re looking for a Broadway show that doesn’t take itself too seriously, yet delivers a fresh take on a childhood classic, Spongebob Squarepants: The Broadway Musical is a great option for a relatively moderate cost. One does not have to be a fan of the original show to enjoy this new adaptation. Though the plot is unlike most episodes of Spongebob Squarepants, there are many callback references to the original show to keep fans satisfied. And in case you were wondering, no, mayonnaise is not an instrument.

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Theatre Review: Spongebob the Musical