Story by Makayla Boling
Photos courtesy of Tennessee Performing Arts Center
On Friday, November 5, The Spongebob Musical premiered at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center as part of a Broadway series in partnership with TriStar Health and HCA Healthcare. Attendees of all ages filled the Jackson Hall Lobby in anticipation as they enjoyed free souvenir photos courtesy of Delta Dental, concessions, and a pre-show jam featuring the familiar instruments of the Spongebob soundtrack (kazoo, ukulele, slide guitar, and bongo drums).
The musical starred familiar characters from the cartoon, however instead of going overboard with large costumes and tacky materials, costume designer David Zinn gave each character a human appearance, but without losing the classic aesthetic and items of the characters. Spongebob Squarepants, played by Lorenzo Pugliese, had his classic look of khakis, button-up, red tie, and of course his spatula. Patrick Star had his lazy, baggy clothes. Sandy Cheeks wore her spacesuit. Mr. Krabs had gigantic claws. However, the most impressive costume was Squidward Tentacles’, who had the appearance of having four legs while carrying around his huge ego and trusty clarinet.
Every musical number was an original composition for the show, and was written by familiar stars such as David Bowie, Panic! At the Disco, Plain White T’s, Lady Antebellum, and more. The songs had specific recognizable characteristics of the artists that wrote them, however they all fit together within the show.
The show opened with Patchy the Pirate, aka the president of the Spongebob fan club. Patchy charged up on stage and took a selfie with the crowd before being chased off by a fake security guard. The set was bright, calm, and a projector screen showed an underwater scene.
All of Bikini Bottom was introduced through song, with live foley and sound effects for added imagery before the real spectacle. The foley artist is Belmont graduate Ryan Blihovde, who made Nashville proud by providing live sound effects and drums on stage throughout the entire two hour show.
The projection screen disappeared to reveal a sea of actors and actresses backed up by vibrant colors, lights, pool noodles, and an overall cheery mood before the vibe was interrupted by the real star of the show: Mount Humongous, a volcano set to end Bikini Bottom for good.
The storyline of the musical kept up with the classic themes of Spongebob Squarepants, such as acceptance, friendship, jellyfishing, and Squidward’s need to be seen as a celebrity by his peers. However, some more serious themes were introduced around politics, marital issues, cult practices, and even racism by the citizens of Bikini Bottom.
As the apocalypse looms over the town, the people look for anyone to blame. The governor begins to abuse her power and tells the people to steer clear of the fake news from the media, Patrick is worshipped as a saviour by a group of sardines who convince him to abandon Spongebob, Sandy Cheeks is shunned out of town for being a “land-mammal”, Plankton and his computer-wife Karen are enjoying a rekindled fire in their relationship, and Mr. Krabs continuously chooses money over his own daughter.
During all of this, Spongebob continues on his quest to prove that he is not just a “simple sponge” and can save everyone from themselves as well as the volcano that is constantly building pressure. A clock on the corner of the stage reminds the crowd how little time is left, and adds suspense throughout the show.
The night closed on a positive note, and with the crowd participating in the classic Spongebob theme song written by the late Stephen Hillenburg and others.
Overall, there was much more depth to the Spongebob Squarepants Musical than anyone in the audience was expecting. There was something for everyone, including innuendos for the adults to laugh at while the kids enjoyed the songs and vibrant colors. The production was top notch, and incorporated everyday objects such as skateboards, bubbles, ladders, cardboard boxes, and more which provided an insight into the world of stage production and showed that a good production doesn’t always need top tier technology.
The Spongebob Musical will be at TPAC through November 10, 2019. Tickets can only be purchased through the official TPAC website: here.
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