Broadway Review: ‘Spongebob Squarepants’ rides the wave to Times Square

One of the most nonsense shows of the year is also one of the best.


Photo credit to Viacom

Bethany Wade, Photography Editor

Nothing about this show makes sense.

Squidward Tentacles has a tap number with sea anemone. Fiery boulders come down through Rube Goldberg-like contraptions. The coral on the sides of the stage is made of pool noodles. Patchy the Pirate sings a sea shanty about being discriminated against for being a pirate.

This show is exactly what Broadway needs right now.

“Spongebob Squarepants: The Broadway Musical” is based on the character from the 1999 cartoon of the same name from Nickelodeon. The citizens of Bikini Bottom are in danger of the eruption of a volcano that will destroy the town in two days. While the townspeople fight to figure out a solution, Spongebob works with Sandy and Patrick to find a way to deactivate the volcano.

When this show was first announced in 2016, the biggest question asked was, do we really need a Spongebob musical on Broadway? After seeing the show, the answer is a wholehearted yes. The show has the humor of the older, more iconic Spongebob episodes, but those unfamiliar with the show will still find enjoyment in the story.

Each number of the show is written by a different musical artist, ranging from Aerosmith and The Flaming Lips, to Sara Barellies and Panic! At The Disco. It seems like none of these songs would go together, yet it’s a nice break when two different genres are back to back. The show goes from the reimagining of a David Bowie song to a rap song written by T.I. The songs were written to match the events of the show, and though the songwriting style isn’t consistent, it’s one of the most unique sounds on Broadway.

All the praise goes to Ethan Slater for his portrayal of the titular yellow sponge. Slater not only looks the part, but lives it on stage. From the laugh to the energy, to even the squeaky voice, the childlike optimism of Spongebob is captured in his performance.

Vocally, he is clearly a belter and his talent is well used, the highlight being the ending notes of “(Just a) Simple Sponge” in the first act. This role is Slater’s Broadway debut, but if this is any indication of his talent, he has a long career ahead of him.

In fact, several members of the cast are making their Broadway debut in this show including Brian Ray Norris as Mr. Krabs, Danny Skinner as Patrick Star and Jai’Len Josey as Pearl. The most notable performance from the supporting cast is Josey. Her character has a minor role, but her vocals in “Daddy Knows Best” are the strongest in the entire show. By giving up-and-coming talent a chance to shine, “Spongebob” continues to prove that taking risks is paying off.

The set design for the show is innovative, yet simple at the same time. The coral and flora are made out of household objects, and the mountain is a u-boat cart with moving boxes. Even the costumes seem like refurbished outfits from a thrift store, but on stage, look stunning. The show managed to create an animated town in real life, without reducing the set or the characters to cheesy pieces that could be seen in an amusement park.

In an interview with Broadway World Director Tina Landau said she wanted to create a new show inspired by the beloved cartoon. The DNA of Spongebob runs through this show, but it feels like a new, unique concept at the same time. Fans of the series and newcomers alike can enjoy this show with ease because after all, it is “the Broadway musical for everyone.”

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Twitter: @BethanyWadeTWW