This colorful and vibrant musical is an uplifting tale of overcoming the odds and celebrating the joy of life.

By: Mar. 23, 2022
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The Stillwell Theater stage will soon be transformed into the undersea world of Bikini Bottom as Kennesaw State University University's Department of Theatre and Performance Studies (TPS) presents The SpongeBob Musical from April 7th to 17th.

Adapted from the beloved animated series SpongeBob SquarePants, this colorful and vibrant musical is an uplifting tale of overcoming the odds and celebrating the joy of life. An Atlanta-area premiere, this production is based on the series by Stephen Hillenburg and book by Kyle Jarrow and is directed by TPS professor Amanda Wansa Morgan.

The story begins as SpongeBob and the sea creatures who inhabit Bikini Bottom are confronted with the total annihilation of their world. All hope seems lost, but our unlikely hero saves the day. An affectionate and timely satire of our individual and political foibles, The SpongeBob Musical affirms community, teamwork, and trust in one's full potential.

The irony of staging a musical about an apocalyptical event right after a real-life pandemic hasn't been lost on director Morgan. "When we chose to produce The SpongeBob Musical, it was centered around 'Hey, this would be fun, the casting is incredibly diverse, and we can make some cool creative choices,'" explains Morgan. Now, at the core of the play is a story that is perhaps more relevant now than when it debuted on Broadway in 2016.

Morgan continues, "The point of the production is to focus on how we are doing as a community, how we help each other. It's so much more necessary now than ever before, to listen to each other, work together, and find solutions." Somehow, solving the world's problems with great music, costumes, and colorful set design makes it seem easier as the audience is taken into a magical world.

The characters may seem somewhat familiar, but with a twist, as they are played by students. Music direction is by guest artist John-Michael d'Haviland, a professional based in Atlanta who also teaches at The Cobb County Center for Excellence in the Performing Arts, a coeducational public magnet school housed on the campus of Pebblebrook High School in Mableton, Georgia. The musicians are enjoying performing the musical numbers, as each one is written by a different pop/rock artist.

Artist contributors include David Bowie, Panic at the Disco, Sara Bareilles, Yolanda Adams, Plain White T's, John Legend and many more. "It's a great challenge for our students to sing in so many different vocal styles. Our audience is going to have a blast with the music, accompanied by a live band of 14 players, comprised of KSU students, faculty, and professionals," says Morgan. Choreography is led by a Broadway favorite, TPS professor Timothy Ellis.

Transforming the Stillwell Theatre into Bikini Bottom took some creativity, and TPS stepped up to the challenge. The Theatre lighting class, led by Brandon Bagwell, is building practical lighting fixtures to transport the audience from sitting in the Theater to sitting under the sea, all without getting wet. Another group of students is working on the puppets, the headpieces, and the costume crafts. Summer Lee Jack leads the students in colorful costume design. Another team of students is focused only on props. The set design, led by TPS professor and Set Designer Ming Chen, mimics a beautiful ocean, in a nod to TPS' focus on environmental issues, particularly the pollution of oceans.

It would be easy to philosophize about SpongeBob, as author Joseph Foy does in SpongeBob SquarePants and Philosophy: Soaking Up Secrets Under the Sea. He explains that "...underneath the lighthearted and whimsical exterior are the seeds of long-standing and important philosophical discussions about identity and the self, our obligations toward others, benefits and tensions of the individual in community, principles of the marketplace and environmental ethics, and questions of just how exactly Jack Kahuna Laguna can build a fire at the bottom of the ocean..."

Morgan has Foy's book on her nightstand. She says, "There are so many moments in this show that have grown out of collaborative conversations and ideas from dozens of different, brilliant minds. I have been honored to watch it all unfold. The purpose of our work here is to provide a space for our student artists to learn about how to do the work, how to engage with the work, and how to reflect on the work. SpongeBob has done just that and allowed us to have so much fun while doing it."

Perfect for all ages, The SpongeBob Musical runs April 7-17; tickets are $14-$20 and available online or by calling Patron Services at 470-578-6650. Please buy your tickets early as space is limited. Note: This event is in-person only and will not be live-streamed.