MUSICAL: Spongebob Squarepants: The Broadway Musical
WHERE: The Palace Theatre
The Spongebob Musical, amidst dozens of highly positive reviews, has been one of the most controversial musicals currently on Broadway, whether because of its costume choices or budget or the megastar artists who wrote the songs or the fact that it’s a musical about Spongebob. Every person I had talked to who had seen the show would always just tell me a seemingly positive (but also neutral) “It was something else, you need to see it for yourself.” And so I did.
In the first ten minutes alone, I was just like WOAH. I was taking in a lot at once, from voice effects to sound effects. But by the end of the first song, I knew this was going to be nothing like I had ever seen before.
I may be one of the few millennials who did not watch Spongebob growing up. Though I have seen around 10-20 episodes. But even still, I did get most of the references (whether quotes or sound effects) to the show. And the ones I didn’t know, I quickly figured out were a meme or show reference due to the audience’s loud applause.
I sat as far up front with the cheapest tickets I could buy. The Palace Theatre is a three-tier theatre, which isn’t my favorite, but from the third tier balcony you can see the entire stage (the only part you can’t see is the very front which is only used for actors to walk across the stage). It was a unique experience for me because there were lots of kids everywhere, and I had never attended a musical with an audience like that. But it was cute how excited they all would get, and anything that gets kids to Broadway is a winner in my book.
I will admit the show does a feel a bit long (especially because intermission comes fairly late into the show).
THE MUSIC: With songs written by David Bowie/Brian Eno, Steven Tyler/Joe Perry (Aerosmith), Cyndi Lauper, Sara Bareilles, John Legend, Plain White T’s, T.I., Panic! At the Disco, Lady Antebellum, Yolanda Adams, Jonathan Coulton, TMBG, The Flaming Lips, and more, how could the music not be great? The harmonies are wonderful. The tunes are modern and catchy. The lyrics are clever. There are modern pop songs, there are traditional Broadway songs, there’s hip-hop, there’s rock, there are emotional duets. And you have two iconic songs from the Spongebob show.
THE CHARACTERS and CAST: The cast was great. The voice effects they were able to do were remarkable. Special shout out to Ethan Slater playing Spongebob – his upper body strength in the Musical for some of the scenes was incredible and man can he sing. Wesley Taylor was a hysterical Plankton, he did an amazing job. Jai’len Christine Li Josey has some pipes and was extremely impressive in the role of Pearl Krabs. Another standout voice was Gaelen Gilliland as the Mayor of Bikini Bottom.
Also, I’m a huge fan of representation, so it was great to see multiple colored actors and actors of Asian descent in the show!
THE SET and COSTUMES: The set and costumes were incredible. One of the big “controversies” were how Spongebob wouldn’t be in a square costume. But this isn’t Barney or the Teletubbies. The yellow outfit he wore was perfect in my opinion. Sandy, with her hair, looked just as Sandy should. Patrick looked like Patrick. Mr. Krabs, with his boxing glove claws, looked great. Mrs. Puffs looked like Mrs. Puffs. Special shout out to Squidward’s legs – that was really cool how they gave him multiple tentacles. The random sea creature costumes were superb.
And the set was genius. It was superfluous and out there in every way it should be for a show like Spongebob. You’re going to have to see it to believe it. There was one set choice for the Mountain in the show that I wasn’t exactly sure why it was portrayed the way it was. Maybe I missed some symbolism? But overall, very creative use of set pieces.
The creativity for set and costumes, from ladder volcanoes to skateboarding on stage, is what makes Broadway wonderful and I think Spongebob exceeds in that creativity.
STAGE-DOORING: I went to a matinee show on one of the coldest days of the year. So, understandably, they were not stage-dooring that day. But some actors did come out to greet us and did sign playbills.
The stage door is around the corner from the main entrance (take a right from the front door and another right).
Bubbles! Footage courtesy of Luka Jelenak
OVERALL: This show is extra in every sense of the word. There’s no other way to put it (and may be why it rubs some viewers the wrong way. Also keep in mind, they sneak in some innuendos, but it is a show meant for all ages.) But extra isn’t a bad thing at all. Great cast. Phenomenal music. Creative costumes. Beautiful set pieces. The story was original and cute and conveyed a great, positive message. Though I completely understand why people say the show is something else, because it really is unlike any other show I have seen on Broadway. The show definitely makes you wonder at points whether you’re actually enjoying it, but you probably are, because again, it’s nothing like you’ve ever seen on Broadway.
It is “extra” and that extra-ness is great. It is bound to win some Tony’s in the Spring. I definitely recommend watching it, especially if you’re a fan of the Spongebob Show. Prepare to have the Spotify playlist on repeat on the ride home!