BWW Interview: Lorenzo Pugliese of THE SPONGEBOB MUSICAL at Bass Hall
As a child, Lorenzo Pugliese would rise from bed and recite SpongeBob Squarepants' iconic morning message "Good morning world and all who inhabit it," as he hopped himself out of bed daily. And now, only a handful of years later, the budding actor is paid to recite those exact words nightly in the first national tour of the Tony Award-nominated THE SPONGEBOB MUSICAL, in which he makes his touring debut as the titular sea sponge.
We caught up with Pugliese between naps while on the show's tour bus heading as he travels across the country before making his Fort Worth, Texas debut. Read our full conversation below.
Name: Lorenzo Pugliese
Current Role: SpongeBob SquarePants in the national tour of THE SPONGEBOB MUSICAL.
Hometown: Scranton, Pennsylvania
Lorenzo Pugliese: For all of my childhood, I basically wanted to be a baseball player; I wanted to be an athlete, and I played a lot of sports. My dad made me take piano lessons (that I did not want to take), and my piano teacher talked to me about joining a production of HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL that he was playing piano for at a local children's community theatre. I said yes, and I got the lead role. When I performed for the first time in front of people, I just knew I that [performing] was going to be a big part of my life.
Kyle: And with your national tour debut, SpongeBob is an incredible role to kick off your professional career.
Kyle: Tell me about the audition room for THE SPONGEBOB MUSICAL. Was it different than your standard song-and-dance style audition?
Lorenzo: Yeah, I mean, the audition process was pretty cool. So many people showed up to the open call, and then I had about 8 or 9 callbacks after that, I think. It was really cool because I got to work with Tina Landau, which in and of itself was kind of a dream come true. There was a lot of improv and movement they asked us to do. It was definitely the hardest set of auditions I've ever had to do.
Kyle: What was the process like in both humanizing SpongeBob as a fully fleshed character and matching the spirit of the famous cartoon character?
Lorenzo: It was super challenging, bringing such an iconic character to life. It's also super hard to bring that character that everyone knows to the stage, live and in person, and also make it identifiable and relatable. I think there's definitely more of an element of relatability when you're on stage. [Director Tine Landau] was very adamant about making all of the characters very human, and I think that's part of the genius of the production. She was very cool about actors kind of having free range to just try out whatever they want. Of course, the show is the same [as directed on Broadway], but there are certain [moments] that we, as actors, came up with. If Tina liked it, she would throw it in the show. It was super cool to kind of have this hybrid of working on this show from Broadway that I was a super-fan of, but also having my own artistic input.
Kyle: Everything onstage in THE SPONGEBOB MUSICAL is larger than life. What are some of the most challenging moments to perform each night?
Lorenzo: [Laughs] There's quite a few! I would say the physicality of the role is something that is just completely unparalleled by any other show I've ever done. It's so specific and quick and crisp. But the thing about it, like I've said before, is it has to be human and relatable. Finding that balance every night for 2-and-a-half hours is something that I am constantly working on; it's never finished.
Lorenzo: When I saw the show on Broadway, I really, really loved "I'm Not a Loser" [written by They Might Be Giants]. I think that's just a perfectly crafted Golden Age musical theatre number, and it's also just a fun song to listen to. My favorite song in the show now, I guess, would be "I Guess I Miss You" [written by John Legend]. It's just a really beautiful ballad between Patrick and SpongeBob. It's the one time in the show I'm not running around; I just get to sit and sing [laughs]. And of course, Brendon Urie is awesome, so the fact that he wrote one of the songs in the show ["Just A Simple Sponge"] is just super cool!
Kyle: The show also has a great message about community. What do you hope audiences take away from the theatre each night?
Lorenzo: I would say it's just the power of optimism and the idea that if you believe in yourself, it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks.
Kyle: Well, thank you so much for your time today. We look forward to seeing you in Fort Worth soon!
Lorenzo: Awesome, awesome. Thank you so much!
Nickelodeon's THE SPONGEBOB MUSICAL arrives at Fort Worth's Bass Hall on Thursday, February 20, and includes five performances through Sunday, February 23. Tickets start at only $44 and can be purchased at www.BassHall.com.