Musical Review: “SpongeBob” musical shatters expectations, full of dynamic songs, intricate set design

If nautical nonsense be somethin’ you wish, then head down to New York City for a performance of “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical.” 

At first, the very concept of a musical based upon the long-running television cartoon “SpongeBob Squarepants” sounds absolutely ridiculous and could be easily dismissed as a pandering cash-grab. Upon closer inspection, however, the musical proves itself to be one of the most creative, entertaining and downright singable performances on Broadway to date. 

The cast is nothing short of flawless, the sets and costumes are a visual feast and the soundtrack is a wonderfully peppy, eclectic mix of genres guaranteed to dazzle anyone listening. The soundtrack features an impressive list of songwriters including Sara Bareilles, Brendon Urie, Cyndi Lauper and even the late David Bowie.

The stage alone is a sight to behold. Watery blue light instantly transports the cast and audience to the ocean floor, while giant neon Rube-Goldberg machines on either side of the proscenium arch launch bright orange beach balls at the cast members when lava from Mount Humongous threatens the citizens of Bikini Bottom. The residents of this underwater city are brought to life by an incredibly talented cast of both Broadway veterans and newcomers.  

Making his Broadway debut in the lead role, Ethan Slater elicits a notable dimensionality to the optimistic, yellow sponge with his powerful voice and physical abilities. Gavin Lee is perfect as the cynical and sarcastic Squidward Tentacles; Lilli Cooper is spunky and fierce as scientist Sandy Cheeks and Danny Skinner is fantastic as SpongeBob’s best friend, the loveable doofus Patrick Star. This colorful cast of characters is rounded out by a talented ensemble, ensuring that every scene is a joy to watch. 

SpongeBob, Patrick and Sandy set out to stop the impending eruption of Mount Humongous and save the town. As the citizens of Bikini Bottom panic, the villainous single-celled Plankton, played by Wesley Taylor, and Karen the Computer, brought to life by Stephanie Hsu, scheme to use the mass hysteria to their advantage. 

The musical is also remarkable in that it takes current issues and presents them in way that is understandable to young audience members. For example, racism and xenophobia are addressed when the aquatic townsfolk begin to blame their troubles on Sandy, the only “land mammal” in Bikini Bottom. 

Fear mongering local newscaster Perch Perkins, played by Kelvin Moon Loh, broadcasts his “Doomsday Countdown Clock” to the already terrified citizens. Government inadequacy is also brought up as the mayor of Bikini Bottom insists that the government will fix everything, but in reality, is doing absolutely nothing. 

Every aspect of this production is so unbelievably amazing and beyond deserving of all of the critical acclaim and audience adoration it has received. 

Anyone who insists that a musical like “SpongeBob” must be absurd obviously has no idea just how creative, hardworking and talented the entire cast and crew is. All of the effort that was put into making this show has most certainly paid off; “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical” is sure to delight anyone.