Fairfax High School
An evil amoeba? A volcano that leads to an apocalypse? A tap-dancing Squid?! Even with all these wacky variables, audiences still had the "Best Day Ever" watching The SpongeBob Musical at Woodson High School.
Adapted from a 1999 Nickelodeon TV show of the same name, The SpongeBob Musical is a theatrical rendition of the cult-followed show. Created by Tina Landau, the musical premiered in 2016 at the Oriental Theatre in Chicago and later moved to Broadway at the Palace Theatre in 2017. Something unique about the musical is that the music is written by many mainstream artists such as David Bowie, Plain White T's, Cyndi Lauper, and more! Having a soundtrack fueled by music legends yields an electrifying score. The SpongeBob Musical follows the town of bikini bottom living their everyday life until the threat of a world-ending volcano is presented. Through the power of friendship and working together, SpongeBob seeks to find the solution to saving the town!
The titular character of the show, SpongeBob, was portrayed by Noah Tajudeen. Even though he was portraying a character that has been well-known for decades, he found a way of making the character his own without deviating from the source material. He encapsulated the energetic and inquisitive nature of the classic character through his detailed movements and the modulation of his voice. Likewise, Sandy portrayed by Hana Kewaisy was bursting at the seams with energy throughout the entire performance. The commitment to her country accent and her vocals is what made her character stand out. In songs like "Chop to the Top" Kewaisy's vocal abilities showed through at a level unexpected from a high schooler. Tajudeen and Kewaisy's characterization delightfully juxtaposed each other as SpongeBob was sporadic and Sandy was grounded. Their dynamic ultimately drove the heart of the musical and kept audiences wanting more.
Though there were dozens of eccentric characters, two standout performers were Plankton portrayed by George Sullivan, and Mr. Krabs portrayed by Gus Abbruzzese. Sullivan and Abbruzzese perfectly emulated what it meant to be a character actor. They consistently committed to their character's voices as well as their well-developed physicality which was astonishing. For instance, Mr. Krabs had very large inflatable hands that could seem a hindrance, but Abbruzzese used them to drive the movements of the crazed crustacean. Both of these actors commanded the stage with every single word they spoke. In particular, Sullivan portrayed the classic supervillain archetype by boasting evil laughter, an accentuated gait, and a remarkable amount of energy. Overall, both of these actors showed their skills and created fantastic renditions of classic characters.
Though the actors brought the characters to life, the technical aspects are what made the show feel alive. Costumes by Claudia Braesch, Jewel Matson, and Katy Nguyen gave each character a distinct look while making a cohesive ensemble of pieces. Through bright colors and detailed pieces, the costume team was able to create memorable pieces that paid homage to the cartoon. The Special Effects and Technology team consisted of Rachel Sper and A.J. Ingson who were able to bring cartoon-like mechanics to life seamlessly and impressively. Specifically, Squidward, who in the cartoon has 4 legs, had 4 legs on stage as well. Details like that are what bridged the gap between cartoon and the musical and what made the show feel fleshed out.
Through enthralling characters and extraordinarily curated tech, Woodson produced a spectacle. The SpongeBob Musical perfectly exhibited the power of friendships and the importance of finding one's purpose.
Meridian High School
Welcome to Bikini Bottom; where sponges can sing, sardines can tap dance, and friendship is stronger than any danger. On a rainy night in May, an audience is transported to the bottoms of an ocean through an amusing and eccentric cast of characters and their delightful singing.
"The SpongeBob Musical," written by Kyle Jarrow, is based on the Nickelodeon cartoon many of us grew up watching. The musical opened on Broadway in 2017 to critical acclaim, earning 12 Tony award nominations. The show tells the story of SpongeBob and his friends, Patrick and Sandy, trying to stop their home from being destroyed by an erupting volcano. Along the journey, they discover themselves, and SpongeBob finally realizes he's more than just a sponge.
Bringing Jarrow's vision to life, the cast of W.T. Woodson High School's production displayed all the quirkiness of the original cartoon characters as well as brilliant singing voices, the acting in the show was certainly a highlight. Noah Tajudeen's portrayal of SpongeBob was excellent; accurately depicting the iconic character's relentless peppiness and perseverance, along with an outstanding voice that shone especially in songs like "Bikini Bottom Day" and "Hero is My Middle Name." Playing Sandy, the squirrel, Hana Kewaisy also gave a stunning performance, complete with scientific knowledge and southern charm. Her vocals and personality were especially prominent in the song "Chop to the Top", as she encouraged SpongeBob to reach the top of the mountain and stop their town from ruin, while the audience happily clapped along. Other bright performances came from Haley Kim playing Pearl, the overlooked daughter who just wanted to be loved by her father and to forge her own path, and George Sullivan playing Plankton, the evil genius who used a rap song to convince the town to leave Bikini Bottom. Each cast member perfectly brought the spirit of the ocean and the original SpongeBob alive, coming together in a beautiful sea of laughter and plain fun.
The technical aspects were another highlight of the show; the set, done by Leah Friedman, Michael Zurita, Maureen Gelona, and Garek Kramer perfectly depicted Bikini Bottom, from the giant mountain they constructed to SpongeBob's pineapple home. Then there were props, done by Lea Mills, Zoe Uy, and Mya Strater, the magic of the musical was shown through things like UV lit jellyfish to bubbles that flew into the audience. Choreography by Hannah Fidler, Lacey Vailikit, Ava Acosta, and Joanna Park was integral to the show; their talent shone in multiple songs from everything from tap dance to hip hop numbers.
The story of a simple sponge just trying to prove his worth to the world amidst an apocalypse is more relatable than one would think; with themes of prejudice and love and courage, the show was a perfect happy watch for a community still feeling the effects of a rocky few years. The musical ended with the entire cast singing the original SpongeBob theme song, and the audience laughed and cheered along, a lovely, nostalgic ending for a brilliant tale.