Where there’s a will, there’s a wave–an ocean wave, that is. Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati goes under the sea for the premiere of The SpongeBob Musical, a delightful show filled with neon colors and your favorite sponge. Premiering as a condensed, children’s version of the Broadway musical, this one-act zips through Bikini Bottom and packs a big punch.
Originally conceived in the mid-2010s, SpongeBob landed on Broadway in 2018 and tells the story of a volcanic eruption threatening Bikini Bottom, his home. It takes a little help from each classic character, and a classic foil attempt from Plankton, but SpongeBob, Patrick, and Sandy must work together to save the day. The show features original tunes from a variety of artists throughout, from Panic! at the Disco to Sara Bareilles. This production condenses the show into a one-act piece more catered toward children, but the show’s brightest moments remain.
The story whips by in a mere hour-and-a-half and somehow delivers the same story and gratifying finale fans of the show have come to expect. There’s truly nothing like Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds narrating in a French voice over the tale of a beloved sea sponge. The outlandish and spunky have room to shine, and the gorgeous colors of the sea create a spectacle for all ages, down to the iconic flowers in the sky.
Performances in The SpongeBob Musical
Josh Galloway, clad in square-waisted shorts, embodies all the facets of Spongebob, down to the iconic voice and chortle. The show’s most shining moments are glimpses inside his mind, connecting intimately with the audience during ‘Not a Simple Sponge,’ for example. It’s difficult to single out any one outstanding performance as all characters, large and minor, keep the energy up and nail the impressions. Aaron Marshall, Tommi Lea Harsch, and Henry Howland, playing Patrick, Sandy, and Squidward respectively, each have their own moments to dazzle, but their group dynamics elevate the show and harken back to the beloved source material. Bonus points to Howland for tapping with four feet at once.
This production veers from replicating the original show, and creates its own identity especially in its set, designed by Nate Bertone. Many of the town’s iconic buildings from the show are built to-scale (from the audience’s perspective) and have many surprise elements coming from above or rolling onstage (i.e. Gary the Snail on a skateboard).
The costumes, designed by Jeff Shearer, far-outshine any predecessor and complement the sea color palettes. While much of the ensemble has a striking array of neon colors, many principal characters are made to be more akin to the show. For example, Mr. Krab’s ditches the show’s original boxing gloves for real crab pinchers, and Sandy wears a real diving helmet. But other characters are playfully depicted, such as Pearl and Sheldon. J. Plankton, whose costumes are more character-based than true to size–after all, Plankton is one of the smallest organisms. The props, designed by Ellie Fangman, enhance the already massive show, most notably with the reveal of several huge jellyfish, equipped with gorgeous colors and lights.
The spectacle is one of the biggest draws for a show like this, and The Children’s Theatre delivered a kaleidoscope of fun that surprises with its tenderness. What makes this theatre so endearing, though, is looking to the side and seeing hundreds of children dancing along, too. Maybe it was the colors, maybe it was Squidwards’ many tapping feet, but whatever it was, I was dancing right alongside them, and it was a delight.
Tickets to TCT
The SpongeBob Musical, presented by Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati, runs now through October 23 at the Taft Theatre. Get tickets HERE.
Next up for TCT: in December is Narnia the Musical, based on the C. S. Lewis series The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.