Nickelodeon is taking a bite out of the Big Apple with the Broadway premiere of SpongeBob SquarePants, conceived and directed by Tina Landau.
After successfully staging the new musical's world premiere at Chicago's Oriental Theatre in the summer of 2016, it was a case of full speed ahead to Broadway, as the Palace Theatre in the heart of Times Square gets an underwater Bikini Bottom makeover.
Ever wondered what it would be like to be part of a living cartoon? Landau's zany, brightly-coloured production makes no apologies for immersing the audience in an eccentrically cartoonish world. The auditorium itself is decorated to convey an underwater wonderland and one of the busiest crew members is the percussionist downstage right, who is also responsibile for every sound effect from the squelching of Squidward's tentacles to the booming of Pearl Krabs (a whale), as those characters cross the stage. Every Crash! Bang! Wallop! is as over-the-top as the cartoon itself, but Landau also creates a world that is uniquely theatrical. From a bloom of jellyfish made from pink umbrellas to an underwater volcano comprised of crates of orange cardboard boxes and orange ladders, imagination has been poured into this production by the bucketload! A special mention for the huge contraptions located on either side of the proscenium that launch "falling boulders" onto the stage - inspired by the "Mouse Trap" board game and a delight for younger audience members to behold.
With so many diverse acts from the music industry contributing to the musical - from Aerosmith, Sara Bareilles, and John Legend to Cyndi Lauper, Panic! At the Disco, and David Bowie - the result is perhaps one of the most eclectic scores on Broadway. Alongside classic show tunes, there are numbers that delve into the genres of Pop ("(Just A) Simple Sponge"), Rock ("Bikini Bottom Boogie"), RnB ("(I Guess I) Miss You") and even Gospel ("Super Sea Star Savior"). And at curtain call, of course, the audience is sent back out onto land with the popular theme song from the animated series. Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?... You know the one!
SpongeBob SquarePants is a great alternative destination for the young and for the young at heart, who don't take themselves or life too seriously. Tina Landau has done a superb job of idiosyncraticly adapting SpongeBob for the stage, whilst maintaining the distinctly irreverent tone of the cartoon.
The character of SpongeBob SquarePants debuted in 1999 in the popular animated television series, created by marine biologist and animator Stephen Hillenburg. "The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie" was released in 2004, with a sequel entitled "The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie: Sponge Out of Water" released in 2015.
(Photos by Joan Marcus)