LOGAN — The flashy new musical The SpongeBob Musical has been taking the theatre community by storm and has become an instant new favorite. After finally seeing this musical for myself for the very first time, it is easy to see why this show has become such a hit.
The SpongeBob Musical, with a book by Kyle Jarrow (based on the series created by Stephen Hillenburg) and music by artists such as Steven Tyler, Sara Bareilles, David Bowie, and more, tells the story of SpongeBob SquarePants and his friends Patrick Star and Sandy Cheeks on a quest to save their town, Bikini Bottom, from a massive volcanic eruption. With its catchy music, laugh-out-loud humor and high-energy dance numbers, there is never a dull moment in this action-packed musical. Performed at the beautiful Ellen Eccles Theatre in Logan, so many elements of this production were spectacular that it is difficult to know where to begin.
From the moment I stepped into the theatre, I was immediately immersed into the underwater town of Bikini Bottom, due to the incredible set and prop design by scenic artists Thomas Jennings, Luke Bybee, Daniel Francis, Connor Stevens, and Jared Gregersen. The stage had been painted to resemble an ocean floor, complete with colorful underwater plants and sea life. The back of the stage was lined with floating seaweed, and a backdrop of a massive clock and working door, both of which were used multiple times throughout the show. To add even more depth to this already breathtaking set, this production included a live band onstage as well as an orchestra in the pit. The attention to detail here is truly remarkable. Each of the band members were adorned with bright, colorful clothing, and their setup was multi-layered and painted with the words “Bikini Bottom” in colorful lettering that matched the rest of the set design.
When the cast made their first entrance, the stage erupted with color due to the beautiful costume designs by Connor Harrison and Caroline Robbins. The costumes were incredibly detailed, adorned with sequins, jewels, and many different colors and textures of fabric. Each cast member resembled various sea creatures, including mermaids, starfish, jellyfish, and even a clown fish. Many of the cast members wore color-coordinated wigs and makeup, which only enhanced the brightness of their costumes and made this production an absolute feast for the eyes.
Even more impressive was the professional-level talent in this cast. Kaito Davis plays the titular role of SpongeBob SquarePants. Davis is funny, charming, and has a lovely voice. He added the perfect amount of humor, charisma and warmth to this popular, well-loved character without being too campy or over-the-top. Equally as charming was SpongeBob’s best friend Patrick Star, played by Julian Carli. Carli is a stellar vocalist, and he got the chance to show off his impressive pipes during his song “Super Sea-Star Savior.” Carli’s vocals are clean and clear, and he nailed many difficult riffs in this song and in his other musical numbers throughout the show. Some of my very favorite musical moments in this production were when Davis and Carli sang together, during numbers such as “BFF” and “(I Guess I) Miss You.” Their voices blended beautifully, and they mastered their tight harmonies. Director Whitney Metz made an excellent choice casting these two leading actors together. They were the most powerful when they sang together.
The third member of the dream team that saved Bikini Bottom was Sandy Cheeks, played by Nalani Matthias. Much like her counterparts, Matthais is also a powerhouse vocalist and completed this trio beautifully. Matthais also brought comedy and depth to her character as Sandy Cheeks becomes the mastermind behind the plan to save Bikini Bottom and struggles to find belonging as she is the only land mammal to inhabit her underwater town. Matthais’ portrayal of her character was touching and heartwarming, which was only further enhanced by her beautiful vocals.
The story’s villains, Sheldon J. Plankton and Karen the Computer, were played by Chris Metz and Megan Kasparian, respectively. Chris Metz is extremely animated and expertly made his evil character very likeable as he and his computer wife devised a plan to foil SpongeBob and his friends from saving Bikini Bottom. Chris Metz is humorously wicked, and I particularly loved his number “When the Going Gets Tough,” during which he got a chance to show off his rap skills. Chris Metz and Kasparian added exactly the right touch of comedy and antagonism to the show and were entertaining to watch.
Although the role of Squidward is traditionally played by a male, Whitney Metz made the choice to cast a female in this role for this production, and after seeing Sara Marshall’s performance, I can certainly see why this casting choice was made. Marshall’s facial expressions and physicality as this character were excellent and spot-on with the animated character. On top of being a strong singer and dancer (Marshall also doubled as the dance captain for this show), she also proved herself to be a strong comedic actor, and I loved her engaging portrayal of this character. Some of my favorite characters in the show were Eugene Krabs (played by John Brailsford) and his daughter Pearl Krabs (played by Savannah Cordova). Brailsford’s accent and vocal inflections perfectly matched the character from the TV series. Pearl desperately longs for affection from her father as he obsesses over money, which Cordova portrays beautifully. I could feel the desperation in her voice during their number “Daddy Knows Best,” during which Cordova got a chance to show off her powerful, soulful vocals and proved herself to be one of the strongest vocalists in the cast.
The ensemble made this show a party from start to finish with their rich, full vocals and energetic dancing. There are several dance numbers in this production, and choreographer Katherine Newman made this cast look extremely professional onstage. The choreography was clean, visually appealing, and exploding with energy. I was particularly impressed by the many different styles of choreography in this production. One of my favorites was the tap number “I’m Not a Loser,” performed by Marshall and the ensemble. The tap dancing in this number was very entertaining to watch and was not simple, and I applaud Newman for her work with these cast members in perfecting their steps in this number and in all of the numerous dance numbers throughout the show.
In addition to being skilled, energetic dancers, the ensemble also contains many impressive vocalists, several of whom got a chance to shine individually during “Super Sea-Star Savior.” Each ensemble member holds their own as a talented vocalist, but they were even more powerful when they sang together. They mastered the many complex harmonies in the music throughout the show and made the musical numbers exciting and delightful to listen to, with many of the musical numbers actually giving me goosebumps. Music director Zach Brown, who also played in the onstage live band and narrated the show, has done excellent work with this cast.
Although I absolutely loved the depth that the live band and pit orchestra brought to this production, the downfall was that sometimes the vocalists onstage were overpowered by the live music and could not be heard. I hope that sound designer Connor Stevens can boost the volume of the mics onstage to correct this issue. I did, however, love the attention to detail that the sound effects added, such as the humorous noises that were played each time SpongeBob and Squidward took steps onstage. These sound effects were perfectly timed with their steps and received lots of giggles from the audience throughout the night.
I went to The SpongeBob Musical not really knowing what to expect from a musical based off of the popular cartoon. But I left as a huge fan of The SpongeBob Musical. I can certainly see why this musical has gained traction, and I am glad that my first exposure to this musical was with a company who mastered it with this level of talent and professionalism. In fact, I found myself forgetting that I was watching a community theatre production. I highly recommend this show for anyone looking for a spectacular, breathtaking, gut-busting night at the theatre. The musical is likely to make its audience members newfound fans of the famous sponge who lives in a pineapple under the sea.