Surprise! The SpongeBob Musical is the most fun you’ll have at the theatre this year

The Quotable Sayak

The Quotable Sayak

The Quotable Sayak is a critic, contributor and coordinator of social media at Sesaya. Naturally arts-inclined, he is a drama major in a secondary arts program and music student at Sesaya.

Beau Bradshaw (Patrick Star), Lorenzo Pugliese (SpongeBob SquarePants), Daria Pilar Redus (Sandy Cheeks)

I’ve never been a SpongeBob fan. I find the cartoon painfully derivative, lacking in plot, and weird – seemingly for the sake of being weird – with no deeper purpose. I’ve found the occasional funny idea or joke, but other than that and finding the characters mildly amusing, the show never did anything for me. I will admit to having fun at the movie Sponge Out of Water, but the tv show…yeah, no thanks.

So naturally, I was pretty skeptical going in with my family to see The SpongeBob Musical. I wondered… who thought this was a good idea? How on Earth would they bring these characters to life, without being campy or cringeworthy? How could they make it coherent, when the show is rarely that?  And wouldn’t I inevitably be disappointed that so many celebrities contributed songs to something that was destined to be mediocre at best?

And then, last night, I saw the show. Man, I have never been so wrong in my life. This was really good. Bright, beautiful, imaginative, optimistic and satisfying. I’ll go so far as to say The SpongeBob Musical was special. It’s one of the best musicals I’ve ever seen, and by far the most fun I’ve had at the theatre this year. 

The script is funny. The plot focuses on a volcano that threatens Bikini Bottom  . . . but the real joy comes from the script’s deep understanding of the show’s characters. It actually improves them by making them fully-fleshed out. And the actors – who are outfitted in understated costumes that leave them human-looking – are absolutely incredible. They bring these characters to life in refreshing ways through their words, voices and movements, which are endearing and never become irritating or annoying (like the cartoon). Lorenzo Pugliese, who plays SpongeBob, is elastic, acrobatic and all-in. His sweet, smiling optimism shines through in his songs, his plucky adventuring and his interactions with pet snail Gary. Equally charming and a laugh-magnet, Beau Bradshaw is his indomitable doofus sidekick Patrick. And Daria Pilar Redus’ Sandy the Squirrel is the sweet, brainy heart of the rescue operation, with a powerhouse voice and a winning, energizing presence. The entire cast blew me away with their life-affirming and joyous performances.

And the music . . . well, it’s also great. While the first half easily has the better songs, the music is solid all around – especially when I compare it to other “for children” musicals I’ve seen (I’m looking at you Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). The tunes are feel-good, melodic, and catchy  . . . even the slow ones. The opening song ‘Bikini Bottom Day’ sets the upbeat, pure tone of the musical, and is an earworm. It pulls you in and introduces you to most of the characters you’ll see throughout the play, over a bright, infectious beat. The band, Plain White T’s, contributed to the acoustic-guitar driven ‘BFF’, which is an adorable song that introduces the brotherly dynamic between SpongeBob and Patrick to the audience. It’s the most toe-tapping song in the musical, and mark my words: you will be humming it on your way out of the theatre. The Panic! at the Disco-penned ‘(Just a) Simple Sponge’ gives SpongeBob’s character some genuine emotional depth, and the choral backing vocals add a further layer of emotion to the track. 

Cody Cooley (Squidward Q Tentacles) and Ensemble

My only criticism of this musical (and it is a rather minor one) is that I feel it runs a tad on the long side. With such a simple plot, I don’t think this show for children needs to be nearly 2.5 hours (including intermission). At the end of the first act, there is an entire song (‘Tomorrow Is’) about having just one day left before Bikini Bottom is destroyed. Why do we need 3 and a half minutes telling us this incredibly simple piece of information . . .unless (and maybe I am answering my own question here), this is a sendup of “One More Day”, which closes the first act of Les Misérables. 

But honestly, beyond that gripe, this production is an absolute and utter blast. It’s incredibly vibrant, energetic, FUN, and has surprising emotional depth. It looks great, sounds great, and keeps you consistently engaged all throughout the show.

Whether you like or hate SpongeBob, this musical is truly a must-see for all. You only have a couple more days to see it here in Toronto – and there are affordable family packs of tickets available, so please – if you can squeeze it in – do it. I promise you will not regret it!

Info and Tickets: meridianhall.com

© Sayak S-G, Sesaya /SesayArts Magazine, 2019

Posted in The Quotable Sayak and tagged , .