Are you ready kids? Because soon, you’ll have the opportunity to hear an entire audience of people shout back the familiar refrain: “Aye aye captain!”
The Broadway-bound “SpongeBob Musical” has begun its tryout period in Chicago, ironing out any kinks it may have while giving a handful of critics a peek at the high-profile, even higher-concept stage production featuring original songs by such artists as Cyndi Lauper, Steven Tyler, the Flaming Lips, They Might be Giants and David Bowie. Read on for some details uncovered by the first reviews for the production, as well as comments from critics.
Are they wearing costumes?
Nope, this isn’t a Halloween costume party. Instead, each of the actors playing main characters are dressed in ways that remind you of the classic animated characters. SpongeBob (played by Ethan Slater) has bright blonde hair, Patrick (Danny Skinner) has a bouffant and sideburns that kinda make his face look like a star, and the space helmet of Sandy (Lilli Cooper) is instead a bulbous afro.
What’s the plot?
The official plotline is as follows: “Stakes are higher than ever before as SpongeBob and all of Bikini Bottom face the total annihilation of their undersea world. Chaos erupts. Lives hang in the balance. And just when all hope seems lost, a most unexpected hero rises up and takes center stage.”
Bowie is involved?
As you may recall, The Thin White Duke was a big fan of Bikini Bottom — even voicing Lord Royal Highness in 2007’s “SpongeBob’s Atlantis SquarePantis” TV movie. Prior to Bowie’s death in January, one of the final projects he worked on was the song that will be featured in the musical.
What are the critics saying?
“Part allegory of the precarious world in which we all now dwell, and part satire on everything from the bureaucratic babble of modern-day politicians to the hunger for moneymaking, the bloated egos of pop music groups, messianic leaders and the eternal lure of stardom,” writes Hedy Weiss of the Chicago Sun-Times, “the show is full of wildly energetic performers and playful, imaginative stagecraft that might best be described as one part lavish Dollar Store ingenuity, one part Cirque du Soleil and one part childlike invention.”
According to Barbara Vitello of the Daily Herald, not all the songs are a success — including the Bowie number. “It’s not all smooth sailing. A David Bowie-Brian Eno tune felt out of place, and a number by Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and Joe Perry was unintelligible. Moreover, subplots involving scheming restaurateurs and errant pirates threaten to capsize the sponge-saves-the-day narrative centered on efforts of the irrepressibly optimistic SpongeBob (charming newcomer Ethan Slater in a star turn) to prevent Mount Humongous from erupting and leveling his underwater burg.”
Nevertheless, Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune says the musical has plenty of potential to delight all ages. “The world is there before us, beautifully visualized, all shimmering and glittering, inarguably unique. Kids will feel like they’ve walked into an anarchic playland. Reluctant adults, a core audience, will be delighted to be out of the office (or Starbucks) and back in such a carefee place, and still feel like they’re getting their money’s worth.”
“The SpongeBob Musical” will continue to tune-up in Chicago until July 10 at the Oriental Theatre, before moving along with Broadway in its sights.