You may recall how distressed I am that as Broadway becomes more tourist dependent it also more closely resembles a theme park attraction where productions are geared to be flashy events that a city visitor must see on their vacation to the Big Apple. Indeed more than half the current Broadways venues are tied up in long running shows from the 30 year old Phantom to the new but likely-to-last-forever Harry Potter. Accordingly many shows are built on familiar popular brands to capture the most tourists possible, quality or art be damned, we need the long running profit.
So I was already grumpy heading into the heavily Tony nominated SpongePants SquareBob musical (the nomination count attributed by me before seeing it to the weakness of the season; “I’m mean this is all they can find to nominate?”, I said in my evil crabby mind). I’ve never seen the PantsBob SpongeSquare cartoon but the silly image is everywhere including ice cream novelties, I mean, come on, you expect me to watch a kid’s cartoon on stage? Please.
But I gotta say, I left the theatre smiling and bouncing a bit. While I’ve never seen the TV show I’m guessing that the whole point of BobSquare PantsSponge must be the infectious and unrelenting optimism of the title character and how if we’d all just lighten up and have a smile we’d all be better off. Tell me if I’m right.
I did not leave humming any tunes as the many writers who contributed to the very long score fit the show but didn’t have enough of a theme to make me remember any of them, they were fun to listen to. The staging and direction and design credits were all top notch and carried the show well. The stage setting was a funhouse found object joy and the volcano was much better portrayed than that other brand show across the street. Ethan Slater and the entire rather large and talented cast were exceptional.
So I must make an exception and encourage you to see this pop culture production if only to spend a few sunny moments in the company of SquareSponge BobPants. They say this is a family friendly show though there was a lot of talk about Bikini Bottoms but no mention of Bikini Tops. I thought this meant I was going to see some risqué exposure but no luck. So go ahead and bring the kiddies. Maybe I’ll watch the TV show one day to find out more!
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