Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?
If you don’t know the answer to this question, then you didn’t have a proper childhood.
The beloved yellow sponge who first graced television in 1999 traded in his animated world of Bikini Bottom for the Broadway stage at Oriental Theatre (24 W. Randolph St.).
Although actor Ethan Slater (who plays SpongeBob SquarePants in the new musical) didn’t don a giant yellow sponge costume, his embodiment of the quirky and loveable character kept kids and parents laughing throughout the performance.
For some longtime SpongeBob admirers (*cough* me *cough*), SpongeBob the Musical may have some disappointing areas as we reflect on our favorite episodes. Unfortunately there is no “Fun” song, but Jellyfish Fields does make a brief appearance. There is no scene in which SpongeBob rips his pants, but Larry the Lobster (played by Allan K. Washington) makes several appearances as he struts around stage while lifting weights.
But it’s important for some of us (*cough* me *cough*) to get over what was left out and instead focus on what was brought to life and how the producers framed the play to remain true to the mix of characters.
Walking into the theater feels as if you’re walking into Bikini Bottom, with dark blue lighting cast down on the audience and stage. A giant pineapple is projected onto the stage screen and audience members also couldn’t help but notice the obstacle-like fixtures on both sides of the stage. The details to the set as well are simply immaculate; pool noodles are cut in half to represent kelp and umbrellas with dangling strings represent jellyfish.
All the time and effort put into the stage and costumes paid off. Not only did the numerous kids in the audience light up with excitement at every special effect, but the adults as well laughed and gaped at most of the extraordinary
scenes with numerous twists, turns, lights and sounds.
A crowd favorite seemed to be a scene in the latter half of the performance where SpongeBob and his gal pal scientist Sandy Cheeks (Lilli Cooper) climb a dangerous mountain represented by boxes stacked on rolling carts. As ensemble members pushed the carts in swiveling motions, Cooper and Slater hopped on boxes and sang their way to the top in a graceful yet daring feat.
Although the plotline didn’t excite me much (Bikini Bottom is threatened by a large volcano about to erupt) and I couldn’t help but compare every detail, it’s best to let all pre-notions fade away and enjoy a truly magical experience.
From the singing to the dancing and choreography, the zany details were perfected for the stage. The result of the hard work is a performance that shouldn’t be directly compared to the animated pastime, but one that enlightens and inspires young kids while encouraging some chuckles from those (*cough* me *cough*) who grew up with SpongeBob and his gang of fishy friends.
SpongeBob SquarePants the Musical runs through July 10 at the Oriental Theatre (24 W. Randolph St.). Tickets are $33 to $100 and are available at broadwayinchicago.com.