What it’s about
Complete with all of the beloved, and some might say iconic characters that populate Bikini Bottom, The Spongebob Squarepants musical is the epic tale of Spongebob and his friends fighting to save Bikini Bottom from a volcanic apocalypse.
I am not in any way exaggerating when I say that I was looking forward to seeing this show for weeks leading up to it. Spongebob is super special to me - as a weird, bookish, awkward kid, the off-beat humor of the show spoke to me from the first time I saw it. That being said, I was super skeptical of a Broadway musical inspired by my favorite cartoon. When I first heard about it, I assumed it was a sell-out move, a shameless cash grab, if you will. I think I just assume that if something on Broadway has a name that people will recognize, and is family friendly, and is also attached to a multi-billion dollar merchandising venture, it’s gonna be more about selling tickets than anything else.
But, by the time I slipped into my seat at the very tippy top of the mezzanine, all the way to the side, I’d had plenty of time in line to google more about the production. I was kind of surprised, and definitely intrigued to see that the director was a cutting edge, experimental legend, Tina Landau, whose work I’d seen at the Public Theatre and who I’d read about in school. And the music was written by a ton of pop music icons, from T.I. to David Bowie (RIP).
And OMG, the set. It was all neon and shiny, and repurposed everyday items. There were weird and mysterious contraptions, and even a shrine to Spongebob Merchandise right next to the stage (a great photo opp for the hundreds of families in the theatre, though I was sadly too far away). It felt like the creators of the show were acknowledging Spongebob’s mass commercial appeal, like they were in on it, thus making it less capitalistic and icky. Also, the color scheme was super creative - lots of blue obviously, but hues of pink, orange, and yellow as well. They didn’t hit you over the head with nautical stuff, though, it was more about the colorful, coral aesthetic.
The entire show was allowed to exist parallel with the cartoon Spongebob universe, creating its own interpretations of characters, songs, and references, rather than trying to copycat the aesthetic of the TV show to a T. Pearl, Mr. Krabs’ daughter, was my fave singer of the bunch, she had PIPES for days! I didn’t want to embarass myself, but of course I did when the song “Best Day Ever” came on after Spongebob and his pals (especially Sandy, #whoruntheworld #girls) saved the day. I know this sounds cliche, but I was grinning like an idiot for the entire show, because I felt like I was experiencing sticky sweet nostalgia and something completely fresh at the same time. Also, huge shout out for diversity of casting. In this world, sea creatures were represented not just by people of many races, but also by people who had lots of different ways of presenting themselves - from dreads and afros to funky jumpsuits and blonde bobs. The world of Bikini Bottom was a diverse parallel NYC type of universe, and there were some important messages in the show about accepting, rather than scapegoating, outsiders. While Bikini Bottom is quick to blame land-dweller Sandy for the impending apocalypse, she ends up saving the day with science. As an adult, I was so happy to walk out of the show even more proud of being a Spongebob fan than I was when I walked in.
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