BWW Interview: SPONGEBOB's Vivacious Méami Maszewski - A Pearl Of A Personality!
The national tour of THE SPONGEBOB MUSICAL lands at the Dolby Theatre for its Los Angeles premiere March 24, 2020. This 50+-city tour brings the fun, colorful, inspirational tale of SpongeBob Squarepants and his fellow townsfolk of Bikini Bottom. The effervescent Méami Maszewski, who performs the role of Pearl Krabs, graciously made time to chat with me during her couple of days off between performances in San Francisco and Idaho Falls.
Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Méami!
You just finished your dates at the Golden Gate Theatre in your home town San Francisco.
Well, I should say that I was born in Berkeley, but I feel like I spend so much time in San Francisco, it feels like home.
So, how did it all go in your 'feel like' home town?
It went really well. Absolutely incredible. The audience, I would say, they were so giving, so excited. Honestly, was just a privilege to perform for them.
Was this the first time your family have seen you as Pearl Krabs?
Definitely the first time any of my family had seen me. They were pleasantly surprised with how unique the show is. I definitely did my best to not spoil anything and tell them any anything about the show.
What was the most unexpected reaction you received from one of them?
The most unexpected reaction was the reaction that I got from my sister. She was so, so shocked by how much I've grown (her words) as a performer, since the last time she saw me perform, which, of course, was in high school, maybe college. She said that she was blown away by how much I've developed as a vocalist, and just being able to watch me live fully on stage was just shocking to her. To see how much I transformed as a performer. So that was the most shocking thing that they said to me.
You've been with SPONGEBOB since the national tour started last September in Schnectady, New York, right?
Yes. I have been since the beginning.
What's the craziest audience response you're experienced in the twenty-two cities you've played so far?
Oh, my goodness! Definitely San Francisco! They are the most vocal with their reactions. They are the most present. And I think the most shocking response was when they laughed. They laughed at everything They just thought we were the funniest things! I remember Caitlin (Ort) said a line. She does this little bit during "Tomorrow Is," the Act One finale, where she says, "Small, yes, but devious. I feel six feet tall." They laughed so hard at that. That's the first time we got that kind of reaction from that line.
Had you seen a production of SPONGEBOB before being cast in this tour?
Not at all. I had not seen it I actually didn't know what to expect going into it. I never saw a show. I never saw the Tony performance. I didn't know the plot really. I knew the script, because I was able to read what they gave me, but I wasn't able to read the beginning, the middle and the end. I was completely surprised.
Can you take us through your audition process for Pearl?
It was very quick. Prior to the tour starting, I was definitely the last person to join the cast. I was on a contract at Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theater, playing Medda Larkin in NEWSIES. I was looking for work and just wondering as we do, "What's next?" I looked at my Actors Access profile. Casting had reached out to me and asked me to submit for Pearl. I must have been in their books for a previous audition, I'm guessing? They reached out to me, "Would you be interested in submitting for this part?" I was like, "Absolutely!" So, of course, they gave me the sides. I rented out a room in the rehearsal space where I was. I did the sides, and I sang the song and it was difficult. The first time I had a go at it, it was just very powerful, and I had to learn where to place it in my voice. I wanted to make sure that if I were to audition for this and book it, I could do it safely. I worked hard on that. I sent the callback material. They got back to me. They were so great at the speed of getting back to me. I think they were a little bit in a rush to finish the cast. They asked me if I could fly to New York and do a final callback. I told them I have one day in this entire summer that my producers and my company will let me leave. Two days I have off and they don't want me to get stuck out here if some kind of crazy thing happens. So I have one day that I can come in and it's this day. They were like, "Oh, that's perfect." The one day that I could come was the day of the callback.
So I flew down. I literally performed and finished the show, went home, got my bag, got on a plane, flew in the middle of the night. My callback was that morning. Slept on the plane, I was so tired. I got myself together, warmed up. I don't call it 'cruelty,' but they was a 11am or 10am callback to sing the most difficult thing I've ever sung. And then, next two days I'm waiting to hear back, and I was kind of nervous. I finally got a message from Stewart/Whitley saying, "Hey! We've been trying to reach you. Something happened to your email address. We would like to offer you the part. So we hope that you're still alive."
I'm glad it worked out!
Me, too! Literally, the next week, I flew out, and joined the cast. It was really fast. I would say the turnover was ten days.
I've seen photos of you in your cute pink Pearl costume. How long did it take you to get use to dancing in your platform tennies?
Oh, my goodness! I love those shoes. It's like that cousin who really annoys you, but you get so comfortable, and you built this relationship with this cousin. You learn to love this cousin, love these shoes. They were fitted to my feet by LaDuca. It was such a surreal experience because I'd never been to LaDuca in New York. When they told me about the fitting, "Oh, Méami, you have a fitting at LaDuca for your shoes." I was, "What? That's so cool! They're going to make me from the ground up? On my feet? That's so bomb!" Let the world know that Pearl's shoes are LaDuca, it's really funny because they don't look anything like LaDuca's. I was able to rehearse in them for a lot of hours, so I got used to them pretty fast. My feet adjusted pretty well.
I remember seeing the "I'm Not a Loser" number performed on the 2018 Tony Awards telecast. Do you still find it fascinating to watch Cody dancing with his extra legs in that number in the show?
Oh, my goodness! Yeah! I will tell a secret. And I don't know if Daria (Pilar Redus) and Tristan (McIntyre) are gonna be mad at me - they play Candy and Plankton. Every show, every performance, we cannot help it. We go to the wings. We're so excited about that number that we just watch Cody and the ensemble every single show. I'm lucky enough that I just happen to not be in it. I need to just watch the magic, one of my favorite parts of the show. I think the most exciting thing is watching the ensemble, the life that they bring to Squidward's story, watching the audience react. They stand up in their seats; they're just so rooting for Squidward by that point that we're like, "Okay, the show's doing its job" and we're making people smile, and, and honestly, it's impressive every single time.
If you would to submit Pearl for an online dating site, what qualities would you list?
Well, she's sixteen, but let's say for the sake of this argument, she's eighteen years old. (laughs) I would say: loves music, loves an adventure, and her favorite color is pink.
What flaws of Pearl would you finesse or leave out?
I would definitely leave out that she has trouble articulating her feelings, in a way that her father can understand. She's definitely isn't (wink! wink!) obsessed with the Electric Skate. She's probably the president of their fan club. No joke! That's what she spends her free time doing. She's that girl who has posters of them on her ceiling when she wakes up in the morning.
In an alternate universe, which of the characters you've played would Pearl be BFFs with? And why? NEWSIES' Medda Larkin? MAMMA MIA's Ali? NOTREDAME's Esmeralda? THE CRUCIBLE's Tituba?
Those are definitely all parts I've played. My life is flashing before my eyes here! Oh, my gosh, it's a no brainer. It's Ali from MAMMA MIA. Because, they are the same age. They both are obsessed with boys. They both are misunderstood by their dads. Ali and Sophie were on the same page in MAMMA MIA. Let's just say, they had daddy issues. So, if Ali's best friend has daddy issues, then of course she'd be friends with Pearl, because Pearl has Daddy issues.
You still have six more cities to hit before you land in Los Angeles. And then seventeen cities after. What touring tips have you picked up?
Oh, wow. Okay. So, I'm vegan and a lot of people in the cast are. We find it really sustainable with our lifestyle and I think that, as far as energy goes, the hacks I've been finding on tour was changing my diet to a plant-based diet. But I would say the most valuable thing that I've taken with me on a daily basis is making sure that I get to sleep. I think that once you come off of the high of performing, and just that energy from the theme song, it doesn't want to go away, wants to stay in your body. You want to go home and rock out and just have fun and hang out with the cast. I think that's the biggest thing that kept me alive and well for this tour, the rigorous schedule, is definitely sleep. Choosing to just go to sleep, even when you think you're not tired, and force yourself to like just lay down, listen to music and get that rest.
Do you get a chance to play tourist in the cities you've performed?
Actually, we don't have a lot of time to do that. For one-nighters, we have that one day. I get to play tourist when I do have days off. But I mostly just get to the city to work, and just try to get some sleep. I've got to explore Boston, Madison, and Oklahoma City. I've had time to do that, and I think that it's really cool to walk around in our groups with our SPONGEBOB jackets. It's just always a good conversation starter. People really want to talk about Spongebob. They never get tired of it and it's just really lovely.
Collecting any souvenirs along the way?
Souvenirs, I don't. I'm not like a big collector. I find that it stresses me out to have too many belonging. But one thing I do, it's embarrassing. My favorite place in this entire universe is Trader Joe's. My comfort choice of events would be going to Trader Joe's because it's absolutely consistent in every single place. Everything's always in the same place. You always have your brand, your Bomba and your gluten-free waffles. They're always gonna be there. I go to Trader Joe's in every possible city I can, even if I were there for one day. So if you're looking for me, just go to Trader Joe's. I'm probably there.
Maybe you should be their spokesman like Tiffany Haddish is for Groupon.
Yes, I would love to be Trader Joe's spokesperson. Oh, my gosh! Let them know Méami Maszewski will do it for free.
What's the first item you place on your dressing room tables to make it yours?
I stole this from Cody Cooley. I like to now put up a couple selections of fan art that inspire me. I walked into his dressing room one day, and it was just so beautiful because there were all these paintings and trinkets from fans. I thought, "Wow!" I definitely grabbed about three really meaningful pieces of fan art and put it on my mirror to remind of why I do this and who I'm doing it for.
Any pre-show rituals or superstitions?
Superstitions. I don't know who got me to believe this? I'm honestly mad at them for doing it. I believe in the "M" word... the Scottish play... saying it in the theatre... I'm not a big fan of when people say the Scottish play's name. There's a whole reversal thing you have to do.
My biggest pre-show ritual is getting a good light meal in an hour before I do the show. Then I like to steam and nebulize if I'm feeling a little dry. I like to sit , and take my time, and listen to music when I do my makeup. I don't listen to specific things. I just like to listen to whatever I'm feeling, and just check out, and do my makeup.
What song would you like the audiences leaving with singing or humming after your curtain call?
I would say the most meaningful song for me is "(Just a) Simple Sponge" because of the message that it teaches. If one song to have a lyric stuck in your head, "Simple Sponge" is the one. The entire message of the song is to illustrate SpongeBob's journey, and his self confidence peaks in that moment. And I think a lot of our struggles and insecurities in our daily life come from just a little bit of a lack of self-confidence. If you leave with that song in your head, I promise that "Simple Sponge" will give you that confidence for the day. That song really means a lot to me.
Thank you again, Méami! I look forward to meeting your Pearl.
For ticket availability and show schedule at the Dolby Theatre through April 12, 2020; log onto www.BroadwayInHollywood.com/SpongebobMusical
For future cities and tour dates; log onto www.thespongebobmusical.com