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Review Roundup: Broadway-Bound THE SPONGEBOB MUSICAL in Chicago

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The SpongeBob Musical just opened at Broadway in Chicago's Oriental Theatre (24 West Randolph Street, Chicago, IL), where it will run through Sunday, July 10, 2016.

The SpongeBob Musical cast includes Ethan Slater as SpongeBob SquarePants, Gavin Lee as Squidward, Nick Blaemire as Plankton, Lilli Cooper as Sandy Cheeks, Carlos Lopez as Mr. Krabs, Danny Skinner as Patrick, Gaelen Gilliland, Juliane Godfrey, Curtis Holbrook, Stephanie Hsu, Jesse JP Johnson, L'ogan J'ones, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Mark Ledbetter, Kelvin Moon Loh, Lauralyn McClelland, Vasthy Mompoint, JC Schuster, Allysa Shorte, Jacob Smith, Abby C. Smith, Jason Michael Snow, and Allan K. Washington.

Acclaimed Steppenwolf director Tina Landau and the groundbreaking designers behind Fun Home, Hedwig, and Spring Awakening have reimagined Bikini Bottom for the Broadway stage. Stakes are higher than ever before as SpongeBob and all of Bikini Bottom face the total annihilation of their undersea world. Chaos erupts. Lives hang in the balance. And just when all hope seems lost, a most unexpected hero rises up and takes center stage.

Let's see what the critics had to say...

Misha Davenport, BroadwayWorld: He has conquered television and film and now SpongeBob SquarePants seems poised to charm his way into the hearts of Broadway theatergoers if THE SPONGEBOB MUSICAL is any indication. The show, which officially opened its Pre-Broadway run on June 19th at Chicago's Oriental Theatre (24 E. Randolf) offers endearing optimism in an era when -let's face it-real world political and social forces threaten to divide and conquer much the same way an impending volcanic eruption and the reaction of townsfolk threaten the serenity of the show's underwater hamlet of Bikini Bottom. SpongeBob is exactly the kind of hero we need right now.

Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: The eye-popping, wildly distinctive set to "SpongeBob" spills out across the theater - a wacky world of pool noodles, runaways and silly machinery, all with a recycled air. That's ammunition against any charge of excessive spectacle, although excessive certainly would not be an unfair adjective to describe this show at some moments. At times in Act 1, it feels too much like we are watching the goings-on in a hyper-kinetic Munchkinland. That's an issue. It might be set underwater, but there is no drier show on television than "SpongeBob SquarePants," and the transition to Broadway now needs to involve a dialing back of excess and more attention to truth - Bikini Bottom truth, sure, but metaphoric human veracity, nonetheless ... The world is there before us, beautifully visualized, all shimmering and glittering, inarguably unique. Kids will feel like they've walked into an anarchic playland. Reluctant adults, a core audience, will be delighted to be out of the office (or Starbucks) and back in such a carefee place, and still feel like they're getting their money's worth.

Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun Times: Part allegory of the precarious world in which we all now dwell, and part satire on everything from the bureaucratic babble of modern-day politicians to the hunger for moneymaking, the bloated egos of pop music groups, messianic leaders and the eternal lure of stardom, the show is full of wildly energetic performers and playful, imaginative stagecraft that might best be described as one part lavish Dollar Store ingenuity, one part Cirque du Soleil and one part childlike invention. The show also arrives with a seamless musical mashup of more than a dozen songs by as many composer-lyricists with zesty pastiche numbers that move from hip-hop, soul, disco and heavy metal to pure Broadway.

The Stage Review: Acclaimed Steppenwolf director Tina Landau and the groundbreaking designers behind Fun Home, Hedwig, and Spring Awakening have brilliantly reimagined Bikini Bottom for the Broadway stage, bringing the spirit of SpongeBob to life with humanity, heart, and pure theatricality. With an original score from some of the biggest names in pop and rock, The SpongeBob Musical explodes with energy.

Steven Oxman, Variety: Nickelodeon's endearing, absorbent, animated oddball optimist SpongeBob SquarePantsand his surreal undersea habitat Bikini Bottom get a Broadway-scaled stage treatment in "The SpongeBob Musical," an inventive, diverting, decidedly promising musical trying out in Chicago. Director Tina Landau and a crack design team privilege simple theatrical imagination over literal interpretations of the cartoon universe, and the creativity works, as do many of the original songs contributed by a diverse array of artists ranging from the alternative (e.g. The Flaming Lips, Alex Ebert of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros) to the classic (David Bowie, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith). Plenty energetic and likeable, the show currently skews quite young, and could benefit from an small injection of authentic edginess. While gentle wit abounds, a touch of darkness would serve it well.

Dean Richards, WGN Morning News: You can see that you get living, breathing actors inspired by their TV counterparts -- not a parade of humans inside mascot-like characters. Instead of kid-like dialogue, the story is multi-layered for kids and adults. It all adds up to one of the most fun, well-produced, and best-acted shows Chicago has seen in a long time...Powerful songs that touch every emotion that are powerfully performed by this extremely talented cast headed up by Ethan Slater, born to play SpongeBob, who brings a mind blowing physicality to the role, along with the charming Danny Skinner as his oaf-ish pal, Patrick, and the show-stopping Gavin Lee as the four-legged Squidward. It's joyous, fun and funny for all ages.

Barbara Vitello, Daily Herald: Never before has ocean detritus looked as beautiful as it does in "The SpongeBob Musical," the relentlessly exuberant new show...Pool noodles and plastic cups, flip-flops and oil drums are among the flotsam and jetsam that comprise SpongeBob's Bikini Bottom home, a gorgeous underwater wonderland brilliantly imagined by set and costume designer David Zinn...Zinn's witty, whimsical visuals...are among the delights of this Broadway-bound musical. Conceived and directed by Tina Landau, the show features a droll, irony-free book by Kyle Jarrow that gently sends up blowhard politicians, money-grubbing capitalists and snarky rock stars...The show is robustly sung by a spirited young cast. They make a splash, but it's not all smooth sailing.

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