Jukebox musical meets superhero adventure (porifera branch) in Nickelodeon’s Broadway-bound show The SpongeBob Musical, which has set its Chicago tryout run for late next spring. Original material for the show is being contributed by an all-star roster of rockers and rappers including Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and Joe Perry as well as Jonathan Coulton, Dirty Projectors, The Flaming Lips, John Legend, Lady Antebellum, Cyndi Lauper, Panic! At the Disco, Plain White T’s, They Might Be Giants and T.I., with an additional song by David Bowie and additional lyrics by Coulton.
Produced by Nickelodeon, the world premiere of The SpongeBob Musical will begin performances on June 7, 2016 at Broadway in Chicago’s Oriental Theatre, where it will run through July 3. A Broadway opening is anticipated for the 2016-2017 season. The show is co-conceived and directed by Tina Landau, with a book by Kyle Jarrow and music supervision by Tom Kitt (Next To Normal). Landau made a specific point of differentiating her show from Julie Taymor’s transformation of Disney’s The Lion King from animated screen musical to live stage extravaganza:
“I was drawn to this project not only for its wild theatrical possibility, but also because I felt SpongeBob, at its core, is a layered and hilarious ensemble comedy,” said Landau. “We’re bringing the show’s fabled characters to life through actors — not prosthetics or costumes that hide them — and we’re deploying some unconventional stage craft that will prove that anything can happen in Bikini Bottom.
“SpongeBob himself is of course its center and beating heart — the eternal innocent in a sea of cynics,” Landau said. “He’s also the classic underdog hero, and so our production sets him on a hero’s journey with real stakes, all the while retaining the show’s trippy humor and irreverence.
“We’re taking our leads from the TV show but this is an original story, with an original design approach, and original songs written just for the occasion by an amazing array of songwriters,” Landau added. “We will present the world of Bikini Bottom and its characters in a whole new way that can only be achieved in the live medium of the theater.”
The design team includes sets and costumes by David Zinn, lighting by Kevin Adams, projections by Peter Nigrini and sound by Walter Trarbach. Casting is TBA.
Here’s how Nick describes the show: “The end is near. Only one sponge can save the day. But he’s going to need help from some of the greatest songwriters in rock and pop music history.￼￼￼￼ The SpongeBob Musical unleashes anarchic absurdity under the sea… and on Broadway. A rousing tale of a simple sea sponge who faces the unfathomable. It’s a celebration of unbridled hope, unexpected heroes, and pure theatrical invention.”
Cyma Zarghami, President, Viacom Kids and Family Group, said, “SpongeBob long ago transcended the TV screen to become a pop culture icon inspiring everyone from kids and families to artists and musicians, pro athletes, movie stars, fashion designers, social media mavens and even the President. This character has achieved a level of global popularity that we could never have imagined, and bringing him to Broadway is a way to give him a new platform, literally, to reach audiences of all ages who are looking for an engaging, funny and innovative musical theatre experience.”
Since premiering on Nickelodeon in July 1999, SpongeBob SquarePants has been the most-watched animated program with kids for more than 13 consecutive years, and over the past several years, it has averaged more than 1 million total viewers every quarter across all Nickelodeon networks. The Paramount Pictures feature film The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water premiered Feb. 6, 2015, landing at No. 1 opening weekend and going on to be a major hit globally.