Posted in Tay on Theatre

The Broadway Show of My Heart, “Spongebob Squarepants”

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I’m not even going to attempt to write a clever opening or be professional in this post. fucking love this musical with every fiber of my being, and I hope it wins so, so, so many Tony awards tomorrow.

Here’s the deal. I’ve seen this musical three times and it’s not enough. I have four t-shirts from the show (soon to be five because I can’t deal with not having them all—I know I have a problem and I can’t stop, but that’s okay). I listen to the full album a few times every week.

I was flabbergasted once the show was over.

I went in with super low expectations. I thought I would have fun, have a few laughs and then go home. Instead, I was changed forever by this little gem of a musical and I will fight anyone who says it isn’t good, okay?

I saw it for a second time on February 3. And then a Third time on June 1. If I could, I would see this musical every week (that would be excessive, but not necessarily unheard of for me). In order to organize my thoughts, because I could go on forever about this show and just be a mess, here are my favorite things about Spongebob Squarepants: The Broadway Musical, tied into why it means so much to me and why I think it deserves all the things.

This musical is probably one of the happiest and hopeful shows I have ever seen on a Broadway stage. The show stars all of the original Spongebob characters from the title character to Patrick Star to Sandy Cheeks to Mr. Krabs and more. It features a storyline where a volcano is threatening to destroy Bikini Bottom I can see why you wouldn’t like the show if you weren’t a fan of the original TV show. However, I vividly remember the first episodes and I loved it as a kid, so I have that connection to it.

Affectively, this show is remarkable and unlike anything else I’ve seen on Broadway. By affect (because I’m an affect theorist in my academic life) I mean the attachments and orientation of physical sensation, feeling and emotion in relation to people, places and things. So many shows that I see on Broadway capitalize on loss or grief in order to power the show. Spongebob, though, ran expressly on hope and optimism. “(Just a) Simple Sponge” is also probably in my top three of all Broadway show tunes I’ve listened to. I love the hopeful message of that song so much.

This infectious hope and optimism, which permeates everything from the set to the costumes to the music to the choreography, is what made me fall so madly in love with this show. It’s two-and-a-half hours of pure optimistic fun where the underdog good guy wins. It’s two-and-a-half hours of color and brightness and fun that I’ve never really encountered in theatre before, not like this.

This musical breaks boundaries. Men and woman dance together in a pink-sequined chorus line. Spongebob is anything but the stereotypically masculine hero. The show smartly pokes fun at religious zeal, corporate greed, xenophobia and government inefficiency. It is the silly, fantastical musical we didn’t know we needed in 2018 during the Trump presidency.

Besides that, I also love that romance isn’t a part of the plot. Not in the way that it’s not part of the plot in Frozen. It’s just absent from the show. Instead, Spongebob and Patrick have the most intensely pure and platonic friendship. Seeing male characters bond and love each other on stage without romance or sex is so refreshing and relatable and needed. The show also plays with gender roles. Spongebob, played by Ethan Slater, is a tiny guy with a huge heart and without any distinct talents. He’s just a dude that loves his town, friends and job. That’s why it’s so inspiring to see him ultimately save the day.

Ethan Slater is also my favorite actor on Broadway right now. The range of voices, noises, hand gestures and athletics that he needs to perform to bring Spongebob to life is incredible. This show could have very easily become cringy and corny, but performances by actors like Ethan saved the show and gave it an authentic sense of fun and its overall wow-factor.

The rest of the cast is equally fun to watch. It’s a joy to hear Jai’Len Christine Li Josey, who plays Pearl Krabs, belt out her notes so incredibly, and she’s just a teenager. It was fun to finally get to see Lilli Cooper on stage. Danny Skinner is the perfect Patrick. Everyone in the cast so fully embodies and embraces their character, bringing some of my favorite childhood characters to life.

The other aspect of the show that brings it to life is the gorgeous set and the immersive experience of the show. I remember the first time the doors opened and I saw the stage, lit gorgeously in blue. Seeing this show has always felt like escaping to a happier place, if only for a few hours. When I’m in a bad place or having a shitty day, the Spongebob Squarepants Original Broadway Cast soundtrack is the first thing I turn to now. Listening to the music and reflecting on my memories of the show brings me so much happiness.

Whatever happens tomorrow night, this show will always have a special place in my heart.

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