Mike Woody reviews 'The SpongeBob Musical' - at The Schuster Center through this Sunday, November 24.
The detailed set, colorful costumes, the talented cast and the overall visual experience of The SpongeBob Musical is among the best you’ll ever see. However, the plot keeps the show from rising above sea level. It’s filled with fun and contains lots of positives, but the script is elementary. More on that later, first we’ll focus on the bright side.
From the ocean’s plant life to the tentacles of the jellyfish costumes, the attention to detail on every scenic element is superb. At times I feared getting wet because the oceanic view was so real. The mix of unique characters and brightly colored costumes reminded me of a Dr. Seuss creation. A few scenes even included rhymes. “The set and costumes are the best I’ve ever seen,” my wife said, and she’s always right. Just ask her.
The entire cast is tremendous, led by Lorenzo Pugliese as SpongeBob. Pugliese is such a clear reflection of the character that I hardly noticed he wasn’t yellow. The positive attitude of SpongeBob is endearing as you can’t help but root for him. The food-obsessed Patrick is played by Beau Bradshaw. Bradshaw master the dim-witted nature of Patrick. Keep your eyes out for his one-of-a-kind couch. One of the musical highlights is ‘BFF’ about SpongeBob and Patrick’s friendship. Though Patrick struggles to understand what BFF stands for. Top billing also goes to Darla Pilar Redus as the resident squirrel Sandy Cheeks. As Sandy would say, Redus is better than an elephant dancing with a bull in a china shop (or something like that).
However, it’s Squidward (Cody Cooley) who steals the show. The downtrodden Squidward rises above all the negativity to have his moment in the spotlight, or at least in his dreams. Maybe it’s the fact that he has four legs, but I also credit Cooley’s stage presence for attracting so much attention when on stage. To fill four shoes is a big job, but Cooley accomplishes it. The highlight of the night is when Squidward tap dances, with all four feet. That’s twice the work, but Cooley makes it look easy.
The villain is Sheldon Plankton (Tristan McIntyre) and his love interest Amy Farrah Fowler, err I mean Karen (Caitlin Ort). The duo did very well at portraying the bad guys that you love to hate. The money-hungry Mr. Krabs (Zach Kononov) and the soul singing Pearl Krabs (Meami Maszewski) are also a pleasure to watch. The entire ensemble deserves credit as they transform into a number of wide-ranging roles, often in a short amount of time, and in lavish costumes.
A stand-out scene is during the song ‘Simple Sponge,’ when a collection of neon sponges ‘dance’ through the darkness and form a number of images. It’s an example of the scenic brilliance the show specializes in. Another exceptional moment is when SpongeBob and Sandy are scaling the top of the volcano. The precision used by the stagehands in moving the set pieces around creates high tension. It’s reminiscent of watching the assistants prepare a magic trick. Speaking of magic, I still can’t figure out how many of the main characters instantly appeared from nowhere in the shows. The staging all throughout the show is a sight to behold. Plus, a fun game audience members can play is count the number of items the cast members hand down to the conductor of the orchestra. I expected him to run out of room eventually. Another detail on the plus side is the cast’s use of the aisles by bringing the action out amongst the seats.
Now, back to the aforementioned plot. A quick synopsis is the entire Bikini Bottom area is in danger of Armageddon from the eruption of a huge volcano. It’s up to SpongeBob, Patrick, and Sandy to save everyone from destruction. It does contain some positive messages but doesn’t seem to meet the standards of a Broadway-level show. The amount of emotional investment is low. It’s very difficult to turn an animated children’s show into a musical whose audience is mainly adults. I felt like it was a little juvenile, yet presented to be for grown-ups. My fear is that many adults aren’t willing to give SpongeBob a chance to appeal to them.
The SpongeBob Musical continues at the Schuster Center through November 24. There are still plenty of tickets available.
Mike Woody is a life long resident of Dayton, and has a passion for writing, which is good because he doesn't excel at much of anything else, except eating.