SpongeBob Broadway is a fun show that has occasionally serious moments. To me, that is its greatest issue. I like shows that are fun, bright and colorful, but they need substance, even if the humor is over the top and the story is a bit shallow.
In Spongebob’s case, the good does far outweigh the bad. It is not a show that I could ever find myself obsessed with, but I have seen it twice now and enjoyed it both times. It’s a hundred percent spectacle, mostly for kids.
1. Ethan Slater. Everything about his performance is exceptional. He nails the character voice and signature laugh. He is cheerful, bouncy and very easy to like. He takes an annoying but usually at least somewhat likeable character from a brain cell-slaughtering creature into a hero that the audience roots for. He gets moments to show off and let his real voice shine through the false character voice which makes me happy because he very much is playing a larger than life character. He moves with ease and purpose, and his smile never wavers. And his voice is amazing, which makes me so excited to see him in a show that is not Spongebob.
2. Lilli Cooper, who does an excellent job as Sandy, playing the bright, nerdy and lovable squirrel with a lot of nurturing feeling. Her voice is well controlled and unique, with power behind it.
3. Most of, if not all of the score. There are certain songs (Not A Simple Sponge, Bikini Bottom Day, Chop To The Top, among several others) that really are catchy and fun, and that you leave humming to yourself.
4. The set. So creative and interesting. A perfect introdution to the world of the show, and it remains consistent throughout which is really cool to see.
5. Social plot points. Somehow, immigration, racism and corruption of power are all addressed in Spongebob the Musical.
6. Musical Staging. Captivating, particularly the opening number!
7. The costumes are very cool and inventive. They mesh with the set well and also really compliment while not being copies of the character’s appearances on the TV show.
1. Character development. I get that it is Spongebob. But it is also a Broadway musical– Krabs, Plankton, Pearl, and even Patrick to an extent are all one dimensional and it makes their big moments hard to invest in.
1. Those things that follow Patrick around. What was the point…? How did it push the story along other than making a very long winded and reachy/preachy about followers vs. friends?
2. Most of Patrick’s moments onstage, honestly. If we’re talking from the perspective of a Spongebob viewer, it makes sense that Patrick and Spongebob are friends because they tell us so. If we are looking at it from a Musical Theatre standpoint, Spongebob’s character is well developed, Patrick’s is not, and neither is the relationship between them (not to mention the nonexistent relationship between he and Sandy).
3. The forced humor. Again, I get it. It’s for kids. But some of the jokes are just loud and painful, not funny at all and seem desperate for laughs. (Others are very funny).
For those who aren’t aware, Spongebob’s musical begins right as Mt. Humongous is about to explode and demolish the whole town of Bikini Bottom, but Spongebob, with a little help from Sandy and Patrick decides they can save the town. Again, I try to remember that its’ source material is absolutely brainless. From that lens, this show is excellent. But from a standard lense, it is almost too much fun and the relatively little substance there is to the plot is swallowed up.
It is a show that I enjoy seeing, and I would (and likely will) see it again. I do think it deserves the Tony for set design, and I think it’ll have a nice long run on the road.