SpongeBob SquarePants, the new Broadway musical based on the popular Nickelodeon cartoon series, celebrates its official opening night December 4. Performances began November 6 at the Palace Theatre.
The show arrives in New York after a well-received 2016 world-premiere engagement in Chicago (then titled The SpongeBob Musical).
Reprising their roles from the musical’s Chicago premiere are Broadway newcomers Ethan Slater as SpongeBob and Danny Skinner as Patrick Star, as well as Gavin Lee as Squidward Q. Tentacles, Lilli Cooper as Sandy Cheeks, Wesley Taylor as the maniacal-yet-microscopic Sheldon Plankton, and Brian Ray Norris in his Broadway debut as Krusty Krab owner Eugene Krabs.
Director Tina Landau, whose visual style and unconventional use of performance spaces are a hallmark of her ambitious, ensemble-driven works, is the driving force behind SpongeBob on Broadway.
“I’m not interested in a theme park show,” she told Playbill. The Broadway musical captures what Landau calls "the SpongeBob DNA” from the Nickelodeon series and its idiosyncratic characters. “We made a tunnel out of hula hoops. There’s a mountain made out of cardboard boxes. It’s a whole world created out of scrap metal and a chum bucket. We didn't want to do cartoon characters with big mascot heads. It was really about: ‘Is there a theatrical, cutting-edge, inventive, exciting language for this to live on stage?'”
SpongeBob SquarePants features a book by Kyle Jarrow and a score from an impressive roster of pop and rock hit-makers, including Yolanda Adams, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Sara Bareilles, Jonathan Coulton, Alexander Ebert of Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, The Flaming Lips, Lady Antebellum, Cyndi Lauper, John Legend, Panic! At the Disco, Plain White T’s, They Might Be Giants and T.I., and a song by the late David Bowie and by Tom Kenny and Andy Paley.
Each of the contributing songwriters penned an original song for a specific moment in the show. “All of the musicians got a brief on where their song fits in the story, so they weren't randomly writing songs on the topic of SpongeBob,” book writer Kyle Jarrow previously told Playbill. “They knew where it fit in the story.”
Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning Next to Normal composer Tom Kitt serves as SpongeBob's music supervisor, orchestrator, and arranger. Kitt is responsible for translating all of the original songs into a unified score.
Rounding out the cast are ensemble members Alex Gibson, Gaelen Gilliland, Juliane Godfrey, Kyle Matthew Hamilton, Curtis Holbrook, Stephanie Hsu, Jesse JP Johnson, L’ogan J’ones, Jai’len Christine Li Josey, Kelvin Moon Loh, Lauralyn McClelland, Vasthy Mompoint, Oneika Phillips, Jon Rua, JC Schuster, Abby C. Smith, Robert Taylor Jr., Allan Washington, Brynn Williams, Matt Wood, and Tom Kenny.
The production is choreographed by Tony Award winner Christopher Gattelli. The design team includes scenic and costume design by David Zinn, lighting design by Kevin Adams, projection design by Peter Nigrini, sound design by Walter Trarbach, hair and wig design by Charles G. LaPointe, and casting by Telsey + Company/Patrick Goodwin, CSA.
SpongeBob SquarePants is produced by Nickelodeon with The Araca Group, Sony Music Masterworks, and Kelp on the Road.