The first show in the 2019-2020 Proctors Theatre package in Schenectady, NY was SpongeBob SquarePants. I could have traded in the ticket for another show not in the subscription series, but I decided to see it.
In case you’re unfamiliar, SpongeBob SquarePants is an American animated comedy television series. It was created by Stephen Hillenburg, a marine science educator, and animator, who died in November 2018. “The series chronicles the adventures and endeavors of the title character and his aquatic friends in the fictional underwater city of Bikini Bottom.”
I went alone on a Thursday afternoon, in part because that is the cheapest time to go. Did I mention I was retired? The house was maybe 2/3s full. I suspect some of my fellow retirees opted out.
Before writing this, I explained the highlights to my wife. “Oh, I heard a guy on the radio who pointed out the same things that you liked.” Being the lazy blogger I am, I quickly found Bob Goepfert’s review for The Troy Record that she heard on WAMC.
“I actually enjoyed the cleverly staged mountain climbing sequence.” This is actually quite extraordinary visually, with our title hero hanging upside down on a ladder more than once. And the look, in general, is a lot of fun.
“There’s a sensational tap number that lasts for about 8 minutes that is breathtaking. Performed by the tall and lanky Cody Coolie (who plays Squidward) the dance will remind old-timers of Tommy Tune… ‘I’m Not a Loser,’ by They Might Be Giants was made meaningful by the already mentioned tap number.
“[T]he musical uses the tale of friendship and heroic actions to teach some fine values – like believing in yourself, being a loyal friend, trusting in individuality and encouraging diversity.” It also addressed fearmongering among politicians, cult followings, and panic.
I enjoyed it far more than Goepfert did, and he’s explained why: “Over the years, no matter how much they begged or cajoled, I avoided watching a single episode of the Nickelodeon television cartoon series with my grandchildren. I refused to go with them to any of SpongeBob films, and they knew better than to ask me to take them to the musical when it played on Broadway. Seeing the show on Wednesday evening at Proctors proved I was right.”
I had wondered right after seeing the show whether someone who was not familiar with the cartoon could make the transition to the stage version. With a now teenaged daughter, I’ve seen more than my share of episodes.
SpongeBob was not in a sponge costume, but rather wore a shirt, tie and shorts. Squidwardhad a pair of slacks and shoes, and another pair of same attached to the back. It’s easier to appreciate that if you can see the cartoon visual in your mind.
That said, the second act was stronger than the first. I first became really involved when Pearl the Whale, the daughter of Mr. Krabs, played by Meami Maszewski, sang Daddy Knows Best in Act 1.
Before the show even began, there were cast members playing some Hawaiian music with a slide dulcimer, fiddle, kazoos, and various sound effects, played by the guy who was also onstage for much of the actual show.
Proctors Theatre was the first stop on the tour for SpongeBob SquarePants, and I suspect the show will only get better. Here’s a favorable review in Nippertown. It’s not Fiddler on the Roof, which is briefly referenced, but it should be entertaining when it comes to a theater near you.