The Deeper Meaning of “The SpongeBob Musical”


The SpongeBob Musical, is the first musical at Williston that has been brought to life from a cartoon, and is the quirky play we all need right now.

The SpongeBob Musical will be hitting the stage on February 16-18, 2023. The show revolves around how residents of Bikini Bottom react to the impeding threat of a volcano eruption. Mount Humongous presents a natural threat to Bikini Bottom, and is an allegory for climate change. In response to this natural catastrophe, citizens marginalize each other, lie to their neighbors, and allow their actions to be guided by panic.

Though the show appears to cater towards young children, the message of the show will resonate with older audiences through deeper themes of race, division, and inclusion.

This show follows the Williston Theater’s fall production, The Elephant Man. The SpongeBob Musical, co-conceived and directed by Tina Landau, debuted on Broadway in Dec., 2017. It received 12 Tony award nominations, rivaling Mean Girls for the most-nominated production at the 72nd Tony Awards in 2018. The production’s score features songs by David Bowie, Plain White T’s, Panic! at the Disco, The Flaming Lips, and John Legend.

The SpongeBob Musical was adapted from the popular TV series SpongeBob SquarePants created by Stephen Hillenburg, which first aired in 1999 on Nickelodeon. It features a plethora of sea creatures, including the title character, a sea sponge, made to look like a dish sponge with arms and legs.

One of the reasons Theater Director Dr. Jorge Rodriguez chose this musical was because of the opportunities it allowed him in casting.

“This musical open up a lot of meaningful and sizeable roles for everyone in the cast and offered a lot of flexibility in casting. The characters are cartoons and can therefore be played by any actor of any identity,” he said. “It also offered varied musical styles – from traditional Broadway tunes, to hip hop, country/folk, and so much more.”

Dr. Rodriguez finds the musical similar to The Lion King.

“This is a joyful musical with a lot of artistry behind it. It reminds me of the stage version of The Lion King – another adaptation of a beloved cartoon that was newly imagined as a live spectacle,” he said. “Even if you’re not familiar with the tv series, this play invites you to commune with these characters.”

Senior Amara Rozario, playing Sandy Cheeks, finds this show unlike any show she has participated in.

“The energy is so different! It’s a very dance heavy show; we haven’t had one of those for a long time since Crazy for You,” she said. “It’s also a new musical that a lot of people didn’t know going in, so it’s fun to all learn all the songs together.”

Some actors were initially hesitant about the musical.

“It’s not the musical that people expected,” Amara remarked. “It’s not the most conventional musical, but a whimsical, fun musical is what a lot of us need right now.”

Stage Manager Liz Gluz, a senior from Syracuse, N.Y., developed an increasingly good impression of the show.

“I didn’t know too much about [the show], of course. I knew the cartoon, as many did, and I was very curious as to how the musical compared to the cartoon,” she said. “Now that I have learned more about the show, I can definitely say that I love it.”

Sophomore Isabel Baxter-Paris, playing Pearl Krabs, commented on the creative approach in bringing cartoon characters to life.

“We are being encouraged by the creative team to capture the essence of the characters while not directly copying the original cartoon. It’s been amazing watching the cast members’ individual interpretations of the characters,” she said.

Various cast members have found it challenging to play their characters in a way that is true to the original show.

Soleil Richardson is playing the title role, SpongeBob SquarePants. Soleil, who is also the Assistant Choreographer, is aware of the monumental task of taking on the role of the lead character.

“Accessing SpongeBob’s view of the world was very challenging because I wanted to do it in a way that would not make him seem like he is in the TV show,” she said. “I wanted to make [the character] my own.”

Junior Ronan McGurn, an avid SpongeBob fan who has watched the show since he was three, was unsure about his ability to portray Perch Perkins, an anti-government reporter from Bikini Bottom, effectively.

“When I was listening to the cast recording of No Control by David Bowie, I was hesitant about how low the notes were,” he said. “I’ve learnt that my singing voice was lower than I thought.”

Sophomore Amanda Yee, who is a Dance Captain and plays Squidward Q. Tentacles, acknowledges the difficulty of bringing cartoon characters to life.

“I strained my voice when I was playing around with what voice I wanted to express as Squidward,” she said. “I tried to do a nasally, monotonous voice, but I have adjusted the voice to be more similar to my own voice since.”

With a break in between the rehearsal process, rehearsals are long and frequent. Senior Lexi Paez, who is playing Mrs. Puff, emphasizes the importance of balancing schoolwork with musical rehearsals.

“I think the hardest part of rehearsals is managing your time, regardless of what role you play” she said.

Shea Huntley, a junior playing Patchy the Pirate, thinks the distribution of lines and songs in the show are more balanced than previous shows.

“There’s a lot of songs that are all cast, which doesn’t happen a lot. Usually there are more solo songs, but in this show, there are only a few solo songs and some duets” she said. “It’s really fun that we all get to sing the songs.”

Assistant Director Amber Fedor was strongly encouraged by effective rehearsals.

“I think the rehearsals are going smoothly. Everyone is doing really well dancing and they’re getting better day by day,” said Amber, a junior from Agawam, Mass.

Stage Manager Liz Gluz is extremely worried about a crucial aspect of the show.

“I just don’t know what we’re going to do!” she exclaimed. “Technically, yellow would be the classic SpongeBob sweatshirt color, but I don’t think I can pull that off. A kelp green could work too, but what shade? Maybe we could go for a fancy salmon pink???”

Members of the cast and audience were concerned about potential mockery of the musical.

“[The audience] may think the show is stupid and make fun of it. It happens with whatever theater production you do; that’s just a reality,” Shea said. “But they’re going to see that the show is actually interesting and has a lot of moving pieces.”

“You could go every single night and I’m sure you’ll get a really different experience even if our performance is exactly the same,” they added.

Eva Ciccarelli, a sophomore from Amherst, Mass., recognizes the obstacles actors may face as a former participant in the Williston Theater.

“The actors will do very well and make the best of it,” she said. “It’s definitely a difficult musical to work with, but it will turn out a lot better than some may think.”

Isabel Gargamelli, a sophomore from Durham, Conn., is looking forward to the show and is especially excited for the musical numbers.

“I’m really excited for the music,” she said. “I hear there are a lot of renowned artists who’ve worked on the score of it.”

Dr. Rodriguez provided every member of the play a link to Encyclopedia SpongeBobia, a detailed Wikipedia-type resource which includes the character’s personality, interests and hobbies, abilities and talents, weakness, residence, and family details.

Encyclopedia SpongeBobia revealed that Squidward is not actually a squid, but an octopus. His favorite hobbies include playing the clarinet (poorly) and painting self portraits.

Here are some other fun facts from the site:

“SpongeBob’s original name was SpongeBoy, but SpongeBoy was a copyrighted name for a mop. Hillenburg made sure to keep the ‘sponge’ in the name of his protagonist as he was worried that children might mistake him for a block of cheese.”

“Unlike SpongeBob, who is rectangular, most of SpongeBob’s relatives better resemble actual sea sponges, being round in shape and brownish.”

“Unlike most of the other main characters of the series, Patrick lacks a nose. Because of this, he generally cannot smell.”

“Mr. Krabs has worked on the S.S. Diarrhea as head chef and S.S. Gourmet as a bathroom attendant.”

“Mr. Krabs has a deep-rooted fear of ‘robot overlords.'”

“Pearl Krabs is a whale, despite her dad, Mr. Eugene H. Krabs, being a crab. Stephen Hillenburg was strongly against revealing the identity of Pearl’s mom and kept it a secret throughout the show.”

“Pearl’s favorite food is salad, despite how sperm whales are the largest toothed predator currently on Earth.”

“Despite being a villain, Plankton is shown to have a soft side, as he seems to care deeply about his wife Karen, his pet Spot (an amoeba) and his son Chip Plankton II.”

“Being a snail, which is to Bikini Bottom what cats are to the real world, Gary is only able to communicate by saying ‘Meow.'”

“Patrick Star and Gary the Snail are first cousins.”

“Mrs. Poppy Puff and Mr. Krabs have been secretly dating each other for 16 years. Eugene’s love for her is enough to temporarily transcend his greed for money.”