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BWW Review: THE SPONGEBOB MUSICAL at Theatre Harrisburg

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He is not a simple sponge indeed. See this joyful, optimistic show now through November 7th

BWW Review: THE SPONGEBOB MUSICAL at Theatre Harrisburg

The SpongeBob Musical premiered in 2016 at the Oriental Theatre in Chicago. Based on the Nickelodeon animated television series SpongeBob SquarePants, the musical features a book by Kyle Jarrow and music by various artists including Sara Bareilles, They Might Be Giants, John Legend, and many others. The SpongeBob Musical opened on Broadway in 2017 and was one of the most-nominated productions at the 2018 Tony Awards. The SpongeBob Musical is the first production of Theatre Harrisburg's 96th season, and audiences can enjoy this optimistic and uplifting show October 22-November 7.

The entire theatre at the Whitaker Center is decorated to transport the audience to Bikini Bottom. On the stage the set and lighting work together to create the effect of an underwater world. It is charming and cheerful. Curtis Mittong, Chris Arney, Matthew Mitra, Susan Oscilowski, and their set and lighting teams simply put together an amazing and magical visual experience. The costumes by Paul Foltz and hair/wig design by Diane Rothrock deserve a special mention, as their teams of volunteers transform each actor into their underwater character. Becky Arney's props are well-designed and are crucial to telling the story in a fun and creative way. The only issue on opening night was the sound balance in the first act, as there were times when the volume of the orchestra, who played wonderfully, was too loud for the volume of the singers. Unfortunately, for those unfamiliar with the songs, this meant that sometimes lyrics were not able to be heard and understood. Thankfully this issue was mostly resolved for the second act, and I have no doubt that it will not be a problem again. The entire production crew for this show clearly put in a lot of time and effort to make the story come alive, and the impact it has on the audience is definitely worth it.

This show requires not only a large production crew, but also a large cast. There are so many wonderful things to say about the cast of The SpongeBob Musical at Theatre Harrisburg. They exude energy and use their facial expressions and body movements to express their character's feelings, eliciting genuine and spontaneous reactions from the audience. Director Matt Spencer, music director Ryan Dean Schoening, and their team did a fantastic job preparing the cast for this performance. Everything from the blocking to the dancing to the line delivery draws the audience into the story, and The French Narrator, played by Kerry Mowery, ties everything together.

The dancers in "When the Going Gets Tough" (Madison Buckley, Laney Dixon, Nia Koenig, and Keel Warner) and in "I'm Not a Loser" (Madison Buckley, Laney Dixon, Heather Hollenberg, Nia Koenig, and Kaitlyn Perbetsky) approach the dances with precision and energy that is fun to watch. There are many moments in the show that highlight the fantastic voices on stage, including "Super-Sea Star Savior", which features solo lines from many of the actors as they play the Sardines and "Poor Pirates", featuring an ensemble group of pirates and Tyler Chick as Patchy the Pirate. Chick is hilarious in their role as Patchy, and they do a great job of getting the audience hyped up and ready for the show at the top of each act. The physical prowess of the cast is additionally demonstrated by Austin Heard, Anna Zimmerman, and Keel Warner as they fly around on the stage on roller skates, scooters, and wheelie shoes as the musical group The Electric Skates. Rounding out the sea creatures in Bikini Bottom are Liz Curtis as Old Man Jenkins/Gary and Andrew Degraffenreid as Johnny the Bartender. All of the citizens of Bikini Bottom commit fully to their characters, which heightens the emotions and energy of the show.

Brian Silva and Heather Hollenberg portray the media and the politicians in their roles as Perch Perkins and The Mayor. Their scenes together show off their fantastic comedic timing, and Silva's smooth bass tones are showcased in "No Control". Bryden McCurdy and Kelli Link take on the roles of Eugene H. Krabs and his daughter, Pearl Krabs. Their performances highlight the tensions that often exist between parents and teenagers, and both of them have powerhouse voices that work together well on "Daddy Knows Best". Of course, no show is complete without the villain and his helper. In The SpongeBob Musical, this is Sheldon J. Plankton and Karen the Computer, played as delightfully diabolical characters by Eric Pope and Adria McCurdy (who also have some wonderful harmonies together).

The characters that many fans of the television show will remember best are Squidward Q Tentacles, Sandy Cheeks, Patrick Star, and SpongeBob SquarePants. Squidward is one of my personal favorites in this production. Actor Sean Adams displays his versatility as an actor in this role as Squidward goes from grumpy and pessimistic to hopeful and optimistic. His performance with the Sean Anemones in "I'm Not a Loser" steals the show in the second act as his vocal and dance ability is spotlighted. Becky Mease is adorable in her role as Sandy Cheeks, and her vocals on "Tomorrow Is" are beautiful. Her performance with SpongeBob as they climb the volcano has the audience sitting on the edge of their seats. Aiden Storm and Nik Olson take on the roles of best friends Patrick Star and SpongeBob SquarePants. Their interactions together on stage are heartfelt, from the friend dance to their harmonies on "BFF" and "Miss You", these two are the perfect pairing for these roles.

There are so many more amazing things that could be said about this production, but since this article is already a little long, just go see it for yourselves! Tickets for The SpongeBob Musical are available at www.theatreharrisburg.com.


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