Discussion in 'Broadway' started by edjames, Dec 6, 2017 at 12:59 PM.

  1. edjames

    edjames Viscount

    It got great reviews! NYTimes loved it:


    Review: ‘SpongeBob SquarePants,’ a Watery Wonderland on Broadway

    By BEN BRANTLEY DEC. 4, 2017
    Ethan Slater is the energetic title character in “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical” at the Palace Theater.

    “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical,” the ginormous giggle of a show that opened on Monday night.
    This ginormous adaptation of the beloved Nickelodeon television series perfectly captures the innocently idiotic spirit of its prototype.

    what it’s worth — and we’re talking millions of dollars here — you are never going to see as convincing an impersonation of a two-dimensional cartoon by a three-dimensional human as that provided by Ethan Slater at the Palace Theater. Mr. Slater plays the title role in “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical,” the ginormous giggle of a show that opened on Monday night.
    This may sound like dubious praise. But think about it. How many of those legions of figures who gambol through stage adaptations of animated movies — teapots, lions, fake Russian princesses, ad infinitum — seem to have been transliterated from the screen without any dilution of their inked-in essence?

    The 24-year-old Mr. Slater, making his Broadway debut in Tina Landau’s exhaustingly imaginative production, achieves this metamorphosis sans prosthetics, skin dye or a facsimile costume. (He wears suspendered plaid trousers, with a shirt and tie.) And he’s playing a sea creature from a television children’s show, for God’s sake, one that appears to be a bright yellow, rectangular kitchen sponge.

    But though he is neither square-shaped nor visibly jaundiced, I, for one, never doubted that Mr. Slater is SpongeBob to the tips of whatever the underwater phyla equivalents of fingers are. Try that on for size, Mr. Christian Bale, and all you other body-morphing Method boys.

    Mr. Slater, I should hasten to add, shares the stage with a peer in capturing exactly the innocently idiotic spirit of the Nickelodeon television series — and $13 billion retail merchandising empire — that inspired this lavish production. By whom I mean the designer David Zinn, whose sets and costumes raise the bar for trippy visuals in mainstream theater.
    Similarly, in recreating the series’ submarine town of Bikini Bottom, Mr. Zinn shows the wonders that can be worked on everyday rec-room items by hyper-magnification and coats of psychedelic color. Giant plastic party cups and pool noodles are combined in immense clusters to evoke underwater flora and fauna, with matching costumes that might have been assembled from Salvation Army bins.

    The effect is of a D.I.Y. playpen-aquarium as it might have been conceived by an industrious five-year-old. Or a five-year-old with an obsessive-compulsive attention to detail and a budget of the reported $20 million invested in this production.

    Overseeing this grandly infantile universe is Ms. Landau, who made her name as boundary-testing director of the avant-garde. She turns out to have been just the person for the job, never betraying the tone of instructive anarchy — packaging life lessons in Looney Tune-style adventure yarns — that has always been the hallmark of “SpongeBob SquarePants.”

    In other words, you will probably adore this musical if: a) “SpongeBob” was a formative influence of your childhood; b) you are a stoner who tokes up to watch reruns of the show on YouTube (categories a and b are not mutually exclusive); or c) if you are (like my date for this show) a parent of “SpongeBob”-bingeing progeny and found its sensibility crept into, and wallpapered, your weary mind.

    If you are none of the above, you will find your patience sorely tested. But if you are obliged to accompany one of the “Sponge”-happy types listed above, might I suggest you do what I did?

    That would be to immerse yourself in random (preferably early) episodes of the series, and then marvel at how the creative team here replicates their seemingly inimitable tone and substance. (Or you could indulge in some illegal inhalation, although I didn’t say that.)

    Still, you may indeed enjoy such improbable spectacles as a misanthropic squid named Squidward (Gavin Lee, wearing four-legged pants) doing a virtuosic four-footed tap dance with a Busby Berkeley kick line of pink-sequined sea anemones. Or a heavy-metal boy band made up of sea skates on skateboards, with music by Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith.

    Oh, I forget to tell you. The show’s songs (supervised, arranged and orchestrated by the composer Tom Kitt) have been written by a plethora of pop-rock eminences, including John Legend, Cyndi Lauper, Lady Antebellum and They Might Be Giants.

    But a lot of these numbers register as polyphonically enhanced variations on the kinds of instructional ditties once heard on “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood,” starting with the opener, “Bikini Bottom Day” (by Jonathan Coulton, known for his songs for the “Portal” games). There’s even one called (shoot me now) “BFF” (by the Plain White T’s), performed by SpongeBob and his bestie, the indolent starfish Patrick Star (a very good Danny Skinner).

    As for Kyle Jarrow’s script, it also honors its bright yellow template. SpongeBob, a relentlessly cheery fast-food worker with self-esteem issues, learns that his beloved Bikini Bottom is in danger of being destroyed by a volcano.

    So he, Patrick and the brilliant scientist Sandy Cheeks (Lilli Cooper, in an astutely underplayed performance), a squirrel (don’t ask), must come up with a plan to save their world. And this in the face of all sorts of topical horrors, since even children have their apocalyptic fears these days.

    The musical number “Hero Is My Middle Name” features these three friends: Danny Skinner (left) as Patrick Star, Mr. Slater as SpongeBob SquarePants and Lilli Cooper as Sandy Cheeks.
    Among the obstacles on the path to hero-hood: xenophobic prejudice (Lilli is disdained as a mammal), the bureaucratic paralysis of the mayor (Gaelen Gilliland), panic-rousing media coverage (Kelvin Moon Loh is fabulous as a glam-rock newscaster) and the villainous obstructions of the evil Sheldon Plankton (Wesley Taylor, who isn’t scary, presumably by design) and his wife, Karen the Computer (Stephanie Hsu).

    Did your brain just freeze? If you’re a “SpongeBob” virgin you will only short-circuit if you try to make scientific sense of this water wonderland. Instead, tune out until the next amazing set piece, and then gape at the ingenious reconfigurations of objects like packing crates and parasols.

    Christopher Gattelli’s choreography of his sexually ambiguous ensemble (genders blur when wet) is perversely brilliant, suggesting piscine movement through breakdance and vogueing gestures instead of the expected swimming motions. But no one matches Mr. Slater in conveying the physicality of the life aquatic.

    An uncannily bendy-bodied figure, he is so springy and supple that you’re not surprised when one of his arms suddenly stretches across the stage. Possessed of a squeaky-clean belter’s voice, he is steeped in a sunny (or sunshine-yellow) chipperness that can absorb all gloom and doubts.

    Whether he likes it or not, Mr. Slater seems destined to be identified forever with what is surely a once-in-a-lifetime match of actor and character. He might want to consult with Joel Grey (eternally remembered as the M.C. in “Cabaret”) or Carol Channing (the same with “Hello, Dolly!”) about dealing with the attendant blessings and burdens.
  2. edjames

    edjames Viscount

    And today's NYPost had this to say:

    The ‘SpongeBob’ musical could be a surprise hit
    By Michael Riedel
    December 5, 2017

    “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical” scrambled aboard a lifeboat Tuesday and it looks as if it could float — at least until the Tony Awards in June.

    The $20 million musical about colorful creatures under the sea was, many on Broadway thought, headed for that iceberg dead ahead. Advance ticket sales were anemic, and many Broadway insiders were dismissive of a kiddie cartoon turned into a musical.

    And yet Monday’s opening-night crowd of skeptics were charmed by the sets, Tina Landau’s direction and a kid you’ve never heard of who’s destined to be a star: Ethan Slater, the 20-something playing SpongeBob.

    Some tough critics were charmed, too, giving the show surprisingly good reviews. As one production staffer said, “We were prepared for the worst, but when the reviews came out we were, frankly, stunned.”

    Viacom, which owns the “SpongeBob” franchise, is about to throw some big marketing money at the show. Sources say Viacom was holding back out of concern that “SpongeBob” wasn’t selling; although the long-running TV show has made billions around the world, it opened with just $3.5 million in the bank. Rumors were swirling that Viacom was going to pull the plug by the end of the year.

    But at a production meeting Tuesday, Viacom executives arrived smiling. They dodged a bullet, and while I can’t say they have another “Lion King” on their hands, they have a show worth fighting for.

    The plan is to exploit an untapped market: families who want to go to the theater, but who’ve been scared away by skyrocketing ticket prices and the sense that Broadway is only for the 1 percent.

    “SpongeBob” has lots of tickets to sell at a reasonable price. Before the show opened Monday, it was averaging $78 a ticket. That’s clicked up to about $98, which is still a steal compared to what people are paying to see Bette Midler in “Hello, Dolly!” and Bruce Springsteen in that little show of his.

    “There’s a market they’re going for, and they should,” says a top theater executive. “Will they make back $20 million on Broadway? No. But the show is good; there will be a tour, and it can be done all over the world.”Inside Broadway baseball here, but let’s go for it: Producers are suing casting directors who are trying to form a union. The producers are carrying a big stick and making loud noises through their trade organization, the Broadway League.
  3. bostonman

    bostonman Earl

    I wish the show well.

    However, I could barely get through their performance at the Macy's parade. The song itself was fun and energetic - it was the lead's "character voice" that drove me bonkers. Does he really sound like that through the whole show? I would not be able to sit through that, even if the show itself wound up otherwise very enjoyable.
  4. actor61

    actor61 Lord

    I saw the show in Chicago last year when it was on its pre-Broadway tour and found it surprisingly delightful. It got terrific reviews here and was predicted to be a hit when it finally reached New York. Looks like the critics were right.
  5. It ain't Chaucer... And that's okay :)

    My main concern with this show is dealing with the kid-heavy audience and parents who can't/won't control them in a Broadway theater.
  6. foxy

    foxy Viscount

    If I was a parent I’d definitely bring my kids to see this and let them scream their brains out annoying the hell out of all the adults who came kidless. Then I’d throw the exhausted kids in bed when I got home, pour myself a stiff scotch and have a good laugh.
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2017 at 1:18 PM
  7. ... And perhaps this response is why not everyone is cut out to be a parent ;)
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2017 at 2:05 PM
  8. foxy

    foxy Viscount

    Which is why I said “if”. And I’m not.
  9. actor61

    actor61 Lord

    It's not just kids who are disruptive in the theatre. I saw a show at a prestigious theatre on Wednesday night and had to ask 2 people to stop texting - 1 in front of me, 1 next to me. The woman behind me talked so much an usher finally shushed her. People bring coffee and wine to their seats, then discuss the quality of their drinks with the people around them, and of course, somebody in the middle of the row always has to get up to go to the restroom during a scene. Just sayin'.
  10. bostonman

    bostonman Earl

    Someone on one of the theatre chat boards commented that the producers of Spongebob are tacitly supporting people using social media, etc, because they think it will promote the show.

    And that's all fine and good, but there is a time and place to do that, and it's not DURING the show. Plus, if they really think that's the reason people are using their phones during the performance - to promote the show - they're pretty naive.
  11. jjkrkwood

    jjkrkwood Regent

    The "lead" looks adorable, but it also looks way too cutesy, which for me borders on annoying.... While it may be fine for kiddies, not sure an adult can sit thru 1.5 hrs of this ?