December 28, 2017 at 10:42 am #1202450449
I didn’t see a thread for this year but I’ll start one! I saw Spongebob a week ago today and finally sat down to gather my thoughts! I for one had a blast! Here’s my full review:
When I first heard about this, I was skeptical. You have to be when a product/franchise piece aims for something like this in a world where we get endless amounts of Broadway musicals based off of movies and TV shows since it’s been hard to get people to come see original material on Broadway. With Dear Evan Hansen and in some forms Hamilton showing us original musicals can be blockbusters even larger than these commercial pieces, it’s becoming harder and harder to support the ideas of the over population of commercial flair on Broadway that isn’t going for high art. But with Spongebob, you can leave all those skeptical thoughts ashore because what a blast this show is. Now I’m not going to say it’s on the same level as The Lion King but it does go for similar things that show shot for with an artistic director at the helm, Tina Landau, and a concept for the costumes that gets away from the theme park idea of what these people playing sea creatures would look like to match the animated property and blending the actor’s human qualities with simplistic representations of what those characters have in their looks. Every costume choice for every ensemble member to the leads is so well crafted and represents each and every character perfectly. Seeing some of the images from the out of town Chicago try out also shows that this show did some major improvements to make this show even greater and even listening to the cast recording that was released and recored before it came to Broadway and even before some cast members were recast, they made correct changes to the score and casting. Let’s talk about this spectacular score too. When you hear that every song is written by a major music act ranging from John Legend, Sara Bareilles, Aerosmith, The Flaming Lips, They Might Be Giants, Cyndi Lauper, The Plain White T’s, Lady Antebellum, Panic at the Disco, David Bowie, and even T.I. you would think that’s a mash of chaos waiting to happen but in fact it makes this score so brilliant. These songs work on their own rights and could be radio hits if they weren’t dropping Spongebob references and are all distinct and none fall into sameness territory or are very forgettable. When I saw the Mean Girls musical in DC for it’s try out that show’s issue was the exact opposite to this show’s score where you couldn’t distinguish one song from the other and none really stuck in your head. Trust me, this score will stay in your head and when you aren’t able to listen to it while you’re at work, it’ll still be playing in your head. It also helps that this show has assembled a top to Bikini bottom phenomenal group of talent. Led by the remarkable Ethan Slater making his Broadway debut, this is a performance for the books. The amount of energy he exudes into this show while jumping around, doing the splits, climbing on huge set pieces, while also balancing a slight character voice and belting high notes and keeping a big ol smile on his face is just superhero level of qualities he has in this show. I’m not sure if he will win a Tony for this performance but it would be a crime if he isn’t even nominated because we all need to remember Ethan Slater’s name. He is a legend in the making. Other stand outs in this cast include the delightful Gavin Lee as Squidward who has a brilliant 11 o’clock number full of tap dancing (with four legs!), chorus lines, and a good old fashion Broadway beat to it; Danny Skinner as Patrick Star is a big goof ball and spot on to what that character’s spirit is from the show plus an excellent singing voice too; Lilli Cooper as Sandy is lovely and does that Texas swang perfectly; Brian Ray Norris as Mr. Krabs does the best of the cast to blend into the original voice actor’s, Clancy Brown, sound and is a major improvement to who ever is on the cast recording; and Wesley Taylor as Plankton is also a step up from the cast recording version giving us an amazing rap number and deliciously evil performance. I’ve been a fan of Taylor’s since The Addams Family musical in 2011 and happy to see him in a big show like this again. The stand out in the ensemble though is unquestionably Jai’Len Christine Li Josey as Pearl who blows the roof off of the rather large Palace theater giving us some of the best vocals I’ve heard on Broadway. I would have loved to see her go into The Color Purple if it was still running because I’m sure she would do an incredible version of “I’m Here”. Kelvin Moon Loh, Stephanie Hsu, and Abby C. Smith are also excellent in smaller roles. The set design is alot of fun and the lighting design is really spectacular capturing the blue glow of Bikini Bottom perfectly. Also shout out to the conductor, Julie McBride, who gets to do a lot involving the show while conducting the show. This is a really great year for the Sound category to come back to the Tony awards because the sound operator is doing exquisite work having to match some of the actors’ every movement because he makes the shoe squeaks or tentacles flop around plus setting off a seismic volcano that shakes the huge Palace theater all the way up to the balcony where I was sitting. The book is also fantastic giving us Spongebob lovers call backs to famous episodes with lines and character references that will probably leave the non Spongebob lovers out in the cold but I think this show has a lot to love even for those who have never seen an episode. Most importantly, this show is a lot of fun! I hope this show becomes the big hit of the season because it deserves it and isn’t just a cash grab like some fear and even still write about on the internet. I hope this show runs for 20 years but lets community theaters have the rights for it ASAP because I can’t wait to see this show 100 times in my lifetime.
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