December 15, 2017
Despite not being part of the fan group fawning over the cartoon series, SpongeBob SquarePants and his aquatic tribe, the newly tricked out Broadway musical conceived and directed by Tina Landau is a total delight. Visually upbeat, David Zinn’s splendidly colored, cleverly adorned costumes compliment the madcap set design that in effect, becomes another character. Led by a most engaging actor, Ethan Slater (SpongeBob SquarePants), the story revolves around his pals, “bad actors” (who are really good actors) and impending destruction of their environment.
Insecure but devoted to SpongeBob, Patrick Starr (Danny Skinner) gets a lesson in believing in himself. The energetic Lilli Cooper (Sandy Cheeks)—a scientist squirrel who breathes underwater with the help of a diving suit -- helps Bob and Patrick combat the villainous Sheldon Plankton (Wesley Taylor). Packed into this scenario is the cranky, cheap Eugene Krabs (Brian Ray Norris) who owns the popular food shack Krusty Krab, the divinely inky Squidard Q. Tentacle’s (Gavin Lee) and so many more creatures who all look different from one another.
Each character is expertly delineated through the costume and costume extensions as well as the movement riffs gleefully choreographed by Chriopher Gatelli -- in particular his creation for Lee’s Second Act “I’m Not A Loser” to the composition by “They Might Be Giants.” This show-stealer features Lee in his long green pants, legs turned out accenting his white sneakers and big feet. Once he begins the springy dance and tap routine, his other two legs appear attached to his back end. But this visual pun populates a production that bounds over original songs by more than a dozen contemporary bands and artists to an engaging book by Kyle Jarrow.
Interestingly, Landau manages to take this youthful story and steep it in an ample amount of suspense and elation. In the end, the universe is saved, while the bullies are tamed, insecure egos are bolstered, friendships cemented and outsiders embraced.
Don’t wait for the kids to go, take a partner and drink in the aqua-aid.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis