Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

October 3, 2019

Review: The Bushnell, SpongeBob Musical

The Bushnell, Hartford, CT
through October 6, 2019
by Jarice Hanson

It may be obvious that if there is a toddler in your life, “SpongeBob The Musical” is not to be missed. Could there be any way better to introduce a child to theatre than attending a full-blown, colorful fantasy of life in the undersea location of Bikini Bottom? There is a reason why this show was nominated for 12 Tony Awards in 2018 (it won only one, for Best Scenic Design). “SpongeBob” has a lot to amuse adults too, especially with music and lyrics from luminaries like Cindi Lauper, John Legend, David Bowie, Brian Eno, and many, many more. But along with the visual spectacle of amazing costumes, wigs, projections, and special effects, the sheer auditory volume of this production is so jarring that you wonder whether children’s’ ears (as well as adult ears) are being harmed by this technological tsunami.

Making the transition from an animated television show to a staged production requires a definite suspension of disbelief. The story of a fast-food worker who becomes a hero when a volcano threatens his community makes a statement about climate change and racism as much as it plays with the idea that every-day items (like sponges, for example) can come to life. Skateboards are a part of the show’s innovative and very clever choreography by Christopher Gattelli.

The 25 members of the touring company at the Bushnell bring energy and sass to this musical, and present the audience with a sheer joy that is contagious. There are some standout performers. Lorenzo Pugliese as SpongeBob is a charming hero, and Cody Cooley as Squidward Q. Tentacles steals the show with his energy and characterization. He also gets to perform in one of the most creative costumes in a show that prides itself on a lot of creative costumes. Meami Maszewski plays a number of characters, but when she sings in the role of Pearl Krabs she demonstrates that she has the type of voice that makes you want to shout, “more, please, more.”
Photo by Jeremy Daniel

“SpongeBob The Musical” is the type of show that is “theatre” as much as Cirque du soleil is circus. If there is a youngster in your home who grew up with the television show “SpongeBob SquarePants,” it will probably be remembered as a cult classic. But for everyone else, it provides a measure of how theatre can be a technological extravaganza while the actual story just gets lost at sea.