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Nautical nonsense through August 13

EPAC's The SpongeBob Musical is a joyous, summer treat that has something for everybody. Jordan Eck is perfectly cast as the title character. Eck's costume, mannerisms, and voice solidify his transformation into a living cartoon. Bobby Checchia's not so smart, Patrick is a perfect take on the second banana. Rounding out the main trio, Davina Lopez is excellent as SpongeBob's smart, perky, yet misunderstood squirrel friend/girl friend, Sandy Cheeks.

The supporting cast is equally talented and distinct. Highlights include the hilarious and villainous duo of Plankton (Dion Castro) and Karen (Bethany Huff), the sour, but sympathetic Squidward (Andrew Cuer), and the greedy Mr. Krabs (Elizabeth Checchia). Each actor simultaneously conveyed the essence of their cartoon counterparts, while still making the role their own.

Director, Megan Riggs did an outstanding job of translating the show to the EPAC stage. I had previously seen it on Broadway and was cynical about how they would handle some of the effects that would be too complex, too large, or too expensive to replicate on a community theater stage. I had nothing to fear, everything was handled with extensive creativity, originality, and a strong sense of humor. (The living volcano eruptions were my favorite!)

S. Lionella Feeney and Abby Stone spared no expense with costumes. I enjoyed how many characters has a specific themed color that was not only reflected in their apparel, but often their hair. Squidward's tentacles were especially amazing, and honestly looked better than the Broadway version. Kudos!

Choreography by Kristin Pontz was vibrant and original. For some shows, EPAC choreography seems to blend together. There is a lot of fist pumping and jumping in place regardless of the tempo or theme of a number. However, each dance number for this show was very distinct and highly appropriate. In fact, (Just a) Simple Sponge was among the most creative and enjoyable numbers that I have ever seen on the EPAC stage!

Jordan Janota, Alec Skwara, Jeff Cusano, and Grant Patrick deserve recognition for the various technical aspects of the show. The set was layered and abstract, highlighted by a large, rotating platform. Lighting was colorful. Sound was good (although mike drops happened somewhat frequently). I was impressed with how the volcano eruptions created this deep, ominous vibration that were even felt through the back of my chair.

The eight-piece, on-stage orchestra was bright and tight. Mike Gephart's Patchy the Pirate served as a great emcee. His improv skills were set to maximum goofiness.

In conclusion, The SpongeBob Musical is a gem. It is a lot of fun, and proves that Disney doesn't hold a monopoly on quality family theater. Make sure to get your tickets for a night of nautical nonsense.

From This Author - Rich Mehrenberg

Rich Mehrenberg was introduced to the magic of theater when he played "The Boy" in his first grade class production of "The Giving Tree". It has been a long term love affair ever... (read more about this author)

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