Musicals on television are becoming more mainstream in the past few years. I think it’s due to it becoming more hip and modern. As we continue the trend of the “live musical” it’s only going to become more of a competition rather than an event. “Who can do a musical bigger and better”. And now we’re hitting demographics, this time kids. Oh the children! But they get something a little special. Something I grew up wishing would happen all the time. A filmed broadway show.
So here comes Spongebob: the musical
Go ahead judge, everyone else has
But you’d be quite surprised
“The Spongebob Squarepants Musical” opened on Broadway in 2017 following a Chicago tryout in 2016. The show opened to critical acclaim. Yes! critical acclaim! Being lauded for its creativity, use of staging and costumes. It was also applauded for having a mostly adult story aimed for families. The show was nominated for 12 Tony awards. Winning for scenic design. But this where the story takes a turn.
The show closed almost 3 months after the tony’s. Due to low ticket sales and the theatre scheduled to be renovated. With the latter being the main excuse. It was a shame that an innovated show ended so prematurely.
However this has a happy ending. Being that our spongy friend is a product of Nickelodeon. The network decided to film the production in its entirety. For theatre fans this is a rarity. To have a broadway show filmed specifically for television. As I child I grew up watching these specially filmed shows and there weren’t many. Going to the theatre is was and still is event for me. So to have this aimed for children is something special.
“The Spongebob Musical: live on stage” was filmed in front of a live audience in an undisclosed theatre. The rumors are the show was filmed in London to cut back costs but nothing was confirmed. It uses the original broadway set, props and costumes. Most importantly it includes most of the original broadway cast. Again this doesn’t happen often.
The basic plot of the musical is fry cook Spongebob (played by Ethan Slater) and his friends Patrick and Sandy as they try to save the town of bikini bottom from a volcano.
So what did I like about this show? First of all it is beautifully filmed! You get the essence that you were at the broadway show. They sets and costumes were known for being loud and colorful and it’s captured well for the small screen. It is filmed as if you were there. There are some stops here and there for a commercial but it flowed well.
Side note it’s very cute that it’s acknowledged that your watching at home. Spongebob says hello to the camera in the opening number. I thought that was adorable. Remember the demographic people.
Something I’m on the fence about is the audience, hear me out.
I’m all for an enthusiastic audience. Sometimes it’s too much that it throws actors off. I’ve seen shows live when this happened. However with this you can tell when they are told to clap, laugh etc. Think about a sitcom where you know the joke wasn’t funny but you herd a boast of laughter from the “audience”. This was like the opposite. This audience is a mixed bag.
At the beginning of the show almost all the characters have a moment and they get applause. Some even screams. But as the performance went on it was like no one was there. I get it, this show was filmed. Maybe the audience was being respectful. Maybe the audience was told not to clap. Maybe some scenes were filmed without the audience.
But at the same time it didn’t make sense to me. For example the character of Plankton (played by Wesley Taylor) has one of the best numbers in the show “When The Going Gets Tough”. No reaction until he was done. And he sang, danced, had backup dancers and rapped! He rapped as a one eyed plankton and crickets.
A respectful audience is not a bad thing. That’s why I’m on the fence. But a some point you gotta say “that was funny, laugh”
Onto the dislikes. Oddly enough this has nothing to do with the show. This has to do with the network. Yes you Nickelodeon! We have to speak! From what I’ve been reading there have been two versions of the show that have been broadcast. On premiere night, December 7 was mostly the full show. I believe one song was cut for time. I saw the repeat the following day and realized this was a different version with a lot of material cut. What is the premise of this? Why bother if your going to butcher it. This particular musical is known for having each song written by different artists. From Panic at the Disco, Cyndi Lauper and David Bowie to name a few. It’s not fair. If I wanna skip songs I’ll hear the soundtrack.
This however doesn’t scorn the show which I thought was great. There the great themes in there for children. Like diversity, unity, friendship, and standing up for yourself. Also there a lot of material for the adults. I’m a grown adult that tuned into Nickelodeon and was laughing out loud. This was truly a show that didn’t get it’s fair run on broadway. I’m glad it’s now preserved.
So do you want my option on the spongebob musical, it’s great. A big theme of the show is not judging a book by its cover. Which is ironic because that’s what a lot of people did when this show was announced. So when you hear of the yellow sponge that sings. I say watch it, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
(Insert spongebob laugh here)
The Spongbob Musical: live on stage is available on Prime Video and DVD