Not A Simple Sponge (& Broadway Sessions)

I went in to SpongeBob with few, if any expectations. I had heard good things about the show so I hoped they were true but I certainly didn’t go in to it as a SpongeBob fan. I don’t know if I’ve ever actually seen a full episode of SpongeBob. I’ve seen clips, memes and have some familiarity with the characters, but a fan I was not. You might be wondering why, then, did I go see a SpongeBob musical if I didn’t care about SpongeBob? Well for one thing, as I mentioned, I had heard only good things about the show and then all of the clips I saw made it look really cool, with the set and the staging standing out. And the cast. I was familiar with some of the cast members already and those with whom I wasn’t familiar also seemed good. I was also intrigued knowing that so many artists had contributed to the music (I had not yet listened to the cast recording). I wanted to see what the hype was all about and, let me tell you, I was not disappointed!

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SpongeBob wasn’t technically our first choice of show to see. Initially we tried a few digital lotteries (HamiltonDear Evan HansenSweeney Todd, and, actually, SpongeBob). We did not win any of those so we went with plan B: TKTS. There we were deciding between Hello Dolly and SpongeBob. (2 very different shows!) We couldn’t decide between the two so we decided we’d go with whichever had cheaper tickets and then it turned out that Hello Dolly did not have two tickets together, so SpongeBob it was! And I have zero regrets.

Right off the bat you’re brought into the world of the musical with the design extending to the whole theatre. There’s the “Bikini Bottom Boutique” in the lobby, shiny/shimmering material covering the walls in the house, and ambient lighting filling the orchestra. As soon as you get to your seats you’re in Bikini Bottom.

The inclusion of the whole space even extends to the confetti cannons that are used in the show. Every time I’ve seen confetti used in a show, it’s at the front of the stage and the front half of the orchestra gets hit with it. Not at SpongeBob. They have confetti at the back of the orchestra too! We were sitting in row “T” and we were covered with confetti. (And, honestly, I was really happy about it!)

All of the design elements of the show were amazing. The set, the lighting, the costumes. It was just so good! I think it worked really well with the costumes not being literal representations of the original characters. Sandy doesn’t need a tail, SpongeBob doesn’t need to be square. You still get the picture and you believe it! The Squidward costume was really cool as he did have four legs. (I wonder how many prototypes they had to go though to get them to look and work just right!) And the fact that he has a full tap number with these extra legs/feet is even more impressive. It’s also just a really great number! Gavin Lee is amazing!

I also need to take a moment to talk about the Foley Design for this show. Yes, besides having a sound designer SpongeBob also has a Foley Designer who is creating all of the sound effects live in the theatre. And there are a lot of them! For example SpongeBob and Squidward both have sound effects when they walk, with each step. It adds to the cartoon-ish element of the show and enhances it in a great way! The cast talked about it a bit at their BroadwayCon panel and Lilli Cooper (Sandy) showed that “booth” in one of the vlogs she made for Broadway.com. The more I hear about it the more impressed and fascinated I am by it. I am so glad that it was announced that the Sound Designer (Walter Trarbach) and the Foley Designer (Mike Dobson) will be jointly eligible to be nominated for the Sound Design Tony! (Thank goodness that award is back!)

“(Just a) Simple Sponge” was one of the many stand out moments from the show. The staging was so simple (though complex in the choreography) but so beautiful. All of the elements- the song, the choreography, the lighting, the props (lots of sponges)- combined to make this great moment. And Ethan’s performance of the song was wonderful! There’s another moment with SpongeBob and a bunch of ladders that is a stand out scene, but I don’t want to give anything away so I won’t say any more about it! If you get the chance to see the show you’ll know what I’m talking about!

The role of SpongeBob seems like such a demanding one, vocally and physically and requires such high energy all the time. Ethan does an amazing job, and it’s his Broadway debut! I never thought I’d see a day when I would think someone playing SpongeBob SquarePants should be nominated for a Tony, but here we are. Seriously though, he better get a nomination!

The whole cast is amazing. I already mentioned Gavin Lee as Squidward. There’s Danny Skinner who is also making his wonderful Broaday debut as Patrick. Lilli Cooper plays an awesome Sandy. And there’s Wesley Taylor who plays Plankton. I was already a fan of his going in to the show and I’m even more of a fan now! He was so good! The rest of the cast too all brought amazing performances to the stage. I can’t get over how great it was!

I mentioned before that I was intrigued by the music for SpongeBob. I knew that a lot of artists had contributed to the score (and a lot of big names) so I was interested to see how it would all go together. It was clear that there were different styles to the music and for some songs it was obvious which artist had written that particular song, but even so, it still felt like a cohesive piece. All of the songs “fit” together in the show. Kudos to Tom Kitt for such an achievement! I’ve been listening to the cast recording almost constantly since seeing the show!

Even though I don’t watch the TV show and didn’t “get” all of the inside jokes (though I was aware of where they were in the show) I never really felt left out by it or like I was missing something, especially because they were funny moments anyway.

I’ve heard the word joy (and joyful) used to describe this show and it’s so true. It’s such a joyful show but at the same time it deals with some very relevant topics. It is by no means just a show for children, though children clearly enjoy it too (there were a lot of them in the audience that night and there was a really cute moment when you could hear one kid say “Yay!” when there was a pause in dialogue at a particularly happy moment). I do really think it’s a show that all ages and levels of SpongeBob fans can enjoy! It was such a fun night at the theatre and I’m so glad I had the chance to see it! (And I was able to check another Broadway theatre, the Palace Theatre, off my list!)

26993659_10159780334875262_2807368286443544769_n(Yes, I kept some of the confetti. Some of it on purpose, some of it not.)

Broadway Sessions

As a bonus after seeing SpongeBob we decided to attend Broadway Sessions at the Laurie Beechman Theatre. I had never been to a Broadway Sessions show before but was aware of it from social media and videos. Ben Cameron hosts these variety type shows every Thursday night and I am a big fan of his from BroadwayCon. When I was looking at things to do in New York I saw that they had a show when we were there, which just happened to be their first show back after a hiatus. And the SpongeBob cast was going to be there. After we bought our tickets for SpongeBob it felt even more fitting to check it out! So we bought our tickets online and after our time in Bikini Bottom we went over to the Laurie Beechman Theatre to keep the Broadway fun going. It was so much fun! I was so excited to finally be attending one of these shows and it was really fun seeing the cast we had just seen in another setting.  There were performances from cast members and a couple of the dressers from the show performed as well. There was also a performance from a kid in the audience who played piano and sang “(Just a) Simple Sponge” with Brian Ray Norris (Mr. Krabs) doing his part of the song and the rest of the cast singing back up. It was a wonderful moment! I had such a fun night and I hope I can go to another Broadway Sessions show in the future!

 

 

 

 

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