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‘SpongeBob SquarePants’ Comes to Broadway With a Timely Message

April 2, 2018 by Suzy Evans
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Gavin Lee, Brian Ray Norris, Lilli Cooper, Ethan Slater, Wesley Taylor, and Danny Skinner, shot on location at the Palace Theatre. (Photographed by Jenny Anderson)

At the end of “SpongeBob SquarePants — The Broadway Musical,” the titular hero says to his fellow Bikini Bottom citizens: “We should be coming together at a time like this. Instead you’re all looking for someone to blame, to follow, to exploit, or to control.” The situation is dire, after all. At the center of the musical based on the Nickelodeon cartoon is a volcano about to explode, and it’s up to SpongeBob and his friends to save their world from destruction. Sound familiar?

“We are faced daily with any number of Mt. Humongouses pressurized, rumbling, and ready to destroy us,” says Brian Ray Norris, who plays the money-hungry Eugene Krabs. “We ask the question: How do you choose to face that mountain, that challenge, that moment, that day?”

With an all-new story co-conceived for the stage by Kyle Jarrow and director Tina Landau, the musical features a score of songs from music titans like John Legend, Cyndi Lauper, Sara Bareilles, Panic at the Disco, The Flaming Lips, and more. The show also offers a fresh take on the cartoon beyond what one might find at a theme park. Landau’s inventive concept embraces movement and form to depict character rather than masks so that the emotional core of the story is the focus.

“The heart and inherent positivity within our hero is infectious and necessary for our divisive times,” says Wesley Taylor, who plays Sheldon Plankton. “The world of Bikini Bottom is comprised of the most ethnically diverse cast. We are full of gender-bending fish of all colors, body shapes, and sizes.”

Each of the cast members had different experiences with the cartoon before joining the show, but Lilli Cooper, who plays the squirrel Sandy Cheeks, was the biggest fan of the bunch. “I remember theming my Xanga account with all SpongeBob stuff,” she says. “The style of comedy definitely led me to the show. It’s exactly what tickles my funny bone.”

Ethan Slater, who grew up watching the show at his friends’ houses, has been inspired by SpongeBob’s positive attitude. “He’s eternally optimistic, and though I don’t think I carry it to his naive extreme, I too am optimistic in general,” says Slater. “Surprisingly, I think I want to be more like SpongeBob than different. That’s another thing I got by watching every episode of the show: a true admiration for the pure heart of the sponge.”

Get tickets to “SpongeBob SquarePants” from $49!

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