Someone has made Spongebob Squarepants into a broadway musical

Someone has made Spongebob Squarepants into a broadway musical

There are few cartoons as successful, or which have boasted such high viewing figures, as Spongebob Squarepants. First premiering on Nickelodeon way back in 1999, the series has been the most watched kids' cartoon on television for over 15 years. It's been so successful that it's still running today. There have been two full-length feature movies to accompany the show, and there are few people nowadays who are unfamiliar with characters like Mr Krabs, Patrick Star, Sandy and Squidward. Since its inception, the show has boasted creative animation, bizarre storylines and jokes that adults and kids alike can appreciate.

But Spongebob has found a whole new audience on the internet, where it has become one of the most popular sources of memes, image macros and reaction gifs, and users on Reddit, Tumblr and various other forums have been continually returning to the show to mine it for more content.

But where is there left for the series to go? The answer, surprisingly enough, seems to be to put it on the stage. Yes, you read that right. It might well sound insane, but one theatre company has actually had the audacity to turn the hit toon into a broadway musical, and to tell you the truth, it looks pretty good. Weird as hell, but in a good way.

The musical is created and directed by Tina Landau and the script was written by comic book artist Kyle Jarrow. It premiered in Chicago on June 7, 2016, at the Oriental Theatre for a limited run. There were concerns initially that the wacky humour of Spongebob would be difficult to translate into live action, but the musical performed well enough to merit a run on Broadway. The story concerns the imminent eruption of a volcano in Bikini Bottom, which threatens to completely destroy the entire underwater community. In the face of such a catastrophe, the cast of aquatic characters are forced to band together to survive.

 Wesley Taylor, Danny Skinner, Ethan Slater and Gavin Lee during the Rehearsal Press Preview of the Spongebob Squarepants Broadway Musical Credit: Getty

Discussing the difficulties inherent in adapting a cartoon to work as a stage show, Landau stated, "We didn't want to replicate the TV show. We didn't want to do cartoon characters with big mascot heads. It was really about: ‘Is there a theatrical, cutting-edge, inventive, exciting language for this to live on stage?' I guess the answer is 'yes.'”

Jarrow continues: "We wanted to create a fully original story. A volcano is going to erupt, and the entire community is in danger of being obliterated. What we really wanted to do was create a story that has some resonance ... it's about how people respond to being scared. Do they turn against each other, or do they pull together? When they think that they've got only 36 hours left, how do they choose to spend that time? ... If we look at the world around us, that's a story we could all use right now. A hopeful story about how we can come together when we're scared." Sounds pretty dark for a Spongebob story, but then again, the show has never shied away from black comedy before.

A theatre advertising the Spongebob Squarepants musical. Credit: Getty

The musical's songs are primarily singles by different songwriters, which were later unified by orchestrator Tom Kitt. The songs used in the musical consist of  No Control by David Bowie and Brian Eno, BFF by Plain White T's, Just a Simple Sponge by Panic! at the Disco, Hero Is My Middle Name by Cyndi Lauper,  Super Sea Star Saviour by Yolanda Adams, Tomorrow Is by The Flaming Lips, Poor Pirates by Sara Bareilles, Bikini Bottom Boogie by Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, Chop to the Top by Lady Antebellum, I'm Not a Loser by They Might Be Giants and (I Guess I) Miss You by John Legend.

As for the cast, Ethan Slater stars as Spongebob, with Danny Skinner as Patrick, Lilli Cooper as Sandy, and Gavin Lee as Squidward. In addition to the main cast, Brian Ray Norris plays Mr Krabs, Wesley Taylor plays Plankton, Stephanie Hsu plays Plankton's wife Karen, Jai'len Josey plays Pearl and Abby C. Smith plays Mrs Puff, Spongebob's driving instructor.

Spongebob Squarepants was first conceived back when creator and animator Stephen Hillenburg was still working as a marine biologist. Back in 1989, he decided to employ his artistic talents to create an educational comic book strip to teach students visiting the Ocean Institute in Dana Point, California. The comic, entitled The Intertidal Zone, showcased Hillenburg's trademark brand of off-the-wall humour, and featured a number of characters who were very similar to those who would eventually populate Bikini Bottom.

Hillenburg eventually left the Ocean Institute, but was still keen to juxtapose his love of animation with his fascination with marine biology. In the mid 90s, he got the job of showrunner on the hit Nickelodeon show Rocko's Modern Life. When it finally wrapped he was given the opportunity to pitch his own show.

Theatre Marquee unveiling for the new Broadway Musical SpongeBob SquarePants. Credit: Getty

Hillenburg then got in touch with voice actor and comedian Tom Kenny, who had worked with him on Rocko, to voice his main character: a naive yet conscientious chap called SpongeBoy. The series was originally meant to be called SpongeBoy Ahoy!, but it turned out that the name Spongeboy was already trademarked by a brand of floor mops. Kenny then suggested the name "Spongebob Squarepants" and the rest was history.

Here's hoping that the show is a success. Hey, I don't suppose it could possibly be any worse than Carrie: The Musical, right? But this isn't the first time that Spongebob has been adapted to a completely different medium. Ever wondered what Spongebob would look like as an anime? We have the answer.