Sunday, January 21, 2018

Broadway Theater Review: SpongeBob SquarePants

SpongeBob SquarePants
Conceived and Directed by Tina Landau
Book by Kyle Jarrow
Orchestrations and Arrangements by Tom Kitt
Choreography by Christopher Gattelli
Palace Theatre

By Lauren Yarger
He's a sponge who lives in a pineapple under the ocean. If you're laughing already and saying, "I can't wait to see that," then Broadway's SongeBob SquarePants, will be just the musical for you. If that doesn't make sense, you're probably of a certain age (like me) and you'll be scratching your head at the attraction of this show, conceived and Directed by Tina Landau and based on the popular Nickelodeon TV cartoon series.

Confusion doesn't mean the tale isn't entertaining, however. In fact, a woman seated near me was beside herself with laughter throughout. She reminded me of myself when I laugh hysterically at old "Get Smart" episodes. It's silly and predictable, but I roll on the floor no matter how many times I hear Maxwell Smart say, "Would you believe. . . " The laughing audience member actually was more entertaining to me than the plot of this musical, but the loud, colorful set and costume design (by Davd Zinn) with high-energy choreography by Christopher Gatelli didn't allow boredom to set in.

Ethan Slater makes his Broadway debut as the sea sponge (who in cartoon land looks more like the variety you have on your kitchen sink an who on stage wears a yellow shirt and yellow plaid pants) who has a variety of underwater sea friends who live with him in Bikini Bottom (if you are laughing at that name for a community, you would have been good company with the hysterical woman near me). They are:

  • Eugene Krab (Brian Ray Norris), owner of the Krusty Krab fried food joint where Bob works
  • Squidward Q. Tentacles (Gavin Lee), SpongeBob's unfriendly neighbor
  • Patrick Star (Danny Skinner), SpongeBob's friendly neighbor
  • Sheldon Plankton (Wesley Taylor), a business rival of Mr. Krab the story's villain
  • Sandy Cheeks (Lilli Cooper), SpongeBob's squirrel friend, who FOR SOME REASON CAN BREATHE UNDER WATER
But whereas I scratch my head and ask questions, others are laughing, so I won't go into details of the the plot, with a book by Kyle Jarrow that has SpongeBob and his friends protecting Bikini Bottom from annihilation. You'll either think it's wonderful or ask too many questions. . . Let's just say there were a LOT of children in the audience who were enjoying themselves and that is a good thing for Broadway.

Music supervision, orchestrations and arrangements are by the fabulous Tom Kitt (Next to Normal) who provides some additional music alongside original songs by Yolanda Adams, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Sara Bareilles, Jonathan Coulton, Alexander Ebert of Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros, The Flaming Lips, Lady Antebellum, Cyndi Lauper, John Legend, Panic! At the Disco, Plain White T’s, They Might Be Giants and T.I., and a song by David Bowie and by Tom Kenny and Andy Paley. Additional lyrics are supplied by Jonathan Coulton.

SpongeBob squares off at the Palace Theatre, 1564 Broadway, NYC. Tickets are $49-$145: spongebobbroadway.com

Additional cast:
Alex Gibson, Gaelen Gilliland, Juliane Godfrey, Kyle Matthew Hamilton, Curtis Holbrook, Stephanie Hsu, Jesse JP Johnson, L’ogan J’ones, Jai’len Christine Li Josey, Kelvin Moon Loh, Lauralyn McClelland, Vasthy Mompoint, Oneika Phillips, Jon Rua, JC Schuster, Abby C. Smith, Robert Taylor Jr., Allan Washington, Brynn Williams, Matt Wood and Tom Kenny as the French Narrator.

Additional credits:
The design team includes scenic and costume design by David Zinn, lighting design by Kevin Adams, projection design by Peter Nigrini, sound design by Walter Trarbach, hair and wig design byCharles G. LaPointe and casting by Telsey + Company/Patrick Goodwin, CSA.

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York in February 2018.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com. She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle. and the Episcopal Actors' Guild.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008- 2018 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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