‘SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS’: Ethan Slater, making a phenomenal Broadway debut bringing the iconic cartoon character SpongeBob to life. Photo: Joan Marcus


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Based on the series by Stephen Hillenburg
Book by Kyle Jarrow
Music Supervision, orchestration & arrangements by Tom Kitt
Choreographed by Christopher Gattelli
Directed by Tina Landau
Palace Theatre

Broadway & 47th Street

(877-250-2929), www.SpongeBobBroadway.com



By Scott Harrah

SpongeBob Squarepants: The Broadway Musical is surprisingly one of the best shows of the season and is a welcome respite from an otherwise lackluster fall on Broadway. Based on the hit Nickelodeon TV cartoon that’s been thrilling kids and adults alike since 1999, this original musical has so much colorful, joyful glee going for it, from the effervescent newcomer Ethan Slater as the iconic SpongeBob to clever sets and costumes by David Zinn to infectious songs by everyone from Cyndi Lauper, Sara Bareilles and John Legend to Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith and the late David Bowie, all skillfully and sharply directed by Tina Landau and choreographed by Christopher Gatelli.

One doesn’t even need to have ever seen an episode of “SpongeBob” (though it helps) to enjoy this magical piece of theatrical cotton candy. From the opening moments, when Patchy the Pirate (Jon Rua) takes the stage, followed by two security guards (Vashty Mompoint and JC Schuster), we know this show is all about having fun, and will be like a party. Its originality is ingenious and the pleasure never ends, thanks to a solid book by Kyle Jarrow and tight music supervision, orchestrations and arrangements by Tony and Pulitzer Prize winner Tom Kitt (Next to Normal).

The story is simple: Bikini Bottom, home to SpongeBob and all the whimsical undersea creatures that inhabit the TV show, faces annihilation by an impending volcanic eruption that will destroy everything and everyone. SpongeBob and his “BFF” Patrick Star (Danny Skinner) try to come up with a plan to save the town. Along the way, we meet the many townsfolk, from Squidward Q. Tentacles (Gavin Lee) to Eugene Krabs (Brian Ray Norris), Karen the Computer (Stephanie Hsu) and Sandy Cheeks (Lilli Cooper) to Sheldon Plankton (Wesley Taylor).

Great musicals have outstanding songs, and there are so many here, from the opener “Bikini Bottom Day” to “Hero is My Middle Name” by Cyndi Lauper and Rob Hyman. One of the highlights is “I’m Not a Loser” (written by They Might Be Giants), featuring Squidward Q. Tentacles and his many tap-shoe-covered “feet” doing a show-stopping, razzle-dazzle production number with the tap-dancing Sea Anemones.

There are so many impeccable performances from the mega-talented cast that it’s almost impossible to mention them all, but standouts include Gavin Lee with his snarky take on Squidward Q. Tentacles; Lilli Cooper as the brilliant Sandy Cheeks, the only mammal in this aquatic land; and of course, Ethan Slater as SpongeBob. Instead of wearing a SpongeBob costume, Ethan Slater is a flesh-and-blood incarnation of the famous creature who lives in a pineapple under the sea. Sporting plaid pants and suspenders, Mr. Slater brings an exhausting, stratospheric level of both energy and humanity to the role. There is a natural guilelessness to Mr. Slater and he imbues it flawlessly into SpongeBob, adding the many layers of dimension necessary to bring a cartoon character to life onstage.

Long may Bikini Bottom have a place on Broadway, because SpongeBob SquarePants deserves to run for years and entertain and inspire many with its universal message of teamwork, inclusiveness and hope, making it a badly needed tonic for these troubled times, but it’s also just a lot of harmless merriment and so much fun.



Edited by Scott Harrah
Published December 8, 2017
Reviewed at December 7, 2017 press performance.


‘SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS’: Lilli Cooper & Ethan Slater. Photo: Joan Marcus


‘SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS’: Wesley Taylor & company. Photo: Joan Marcus


‘SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS’: Gavin Lee & company. Photo: Joan Marcus


‘SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS’: The cast. Photo: Joan Marcus


‘SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS’: Danny Skinner & Ethan Slater. Photo: Joan Marcus

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