Review: THE SPONGEBOB MUSICAL at Golden Gate Theatre

By: Feb. 15, 2020

Review: THE SPONGEBOB MUSICAL at Golden Gate Theatre

For the few of you who aren't familiar with "SpongeBob SquarePants," the long-running TV show for tykes, it's about a sea sponge. And his name is Bob. And apparently, he wears square pants and works as a fry cook at the Krusty Krab. So, yes, I was peripherally familiar with the underwater TV adventures of "the Sponge," but I was somewhat skeptical about reviewing the musical version of the franchise.

But when San Diego Opera singer and childhood friend Sandra Camarena called me up, positively giddy that I was reviewing The SpongeBob Musical, I grew intrigued but still retained an edge of uncertainty. That is until she burst into the SpongeBob theme song. She knew all the words! This opera aficionada -- who delights in performing "Lohengrin," (Wagner's five-hour-long German masterpiece - some might say snooze-fest) -- loves SpongeBob. My skepticism disappeared.

And, it turns out, for good reason. The SpongeBob Musical, which opened at San Francisco's gorgeously renovated Golden Gate Theatre, is phenomenal. Predictable, yes, but the terms frothy, fun and big-hearted were never more positively used to describe a show. With a book by Kyle Jarrow and music and lyrics by a veritable school of fish -- I mean stars (Sara Bareilles, Cyndi Lauper, John Legend and Lady Antebellum, to name just a few) -- The SpongeBob Musical is a toe-tapping, entertaining delight of a show.

Lorenzo Pugliese stars as the sunny, affable and Pollyanna-esque SpongeBob SquarePants and though he's not ensconced in a yellow sponge costume (Costume designer David Zinn chose wisely) Pugliese so thoroughly channels the beloved character that you feel his sea sponge essence. (Is that a thing?) Though sponges are inherently flexible, Christopher Gatteli's choreography would have been impossible in a cumbersome costume.

SpongeBob is best friends with a starfish named Patrick Star (played with surfer-dude cool and Dumb and Dumber dim-wittedness by Beau Bradshaw), and gal pal Sandy Cheeks (Daria Pilar Redus shines as the only land mammal in the show - a squirrel from Texas, no less). The three of them will attempt to save the world, most especially their home, Bikini Bottom, from being destroyed by the active volcano, Mount Humongous.

Review: THE SPONGEBOB MUSICAL at Golden Gate Theatre
Beau Bradshaw as Patrick Star, Lorenzo Pugliese as SpongeBob and
Daria PIlar Redus as Sandy Cheeks

Enter the archvillain Sheldon Plankton (Tristan McIntyre) and his computer girlfriend Karen (Caitlin Ort). They have other ideas. They devise a plot to whisk the residents away in a pod where they plan to hypnotize them into loving their restaurant, the Chum Bucket, over the Krusty Krab, which is owned by successful rival Eugene Krabs (Zach Kononov) and his daughter, Pearl (belter Méami Maszewski). But how to raise the money for the pod?! The residents decide they'll put on a show to raise the funds.

If all of this sounds far-fetched, it is, but it works, and due in no small part, to the amazing cast, but also to the Tony-winning set design by the aforementioned David Zinn, Projections by Peter Nigrini and believe it or not, onstage Foley artist Mike Dobson, who got a Tony nom for Best Sound Design along with Walter Trarbach. Foley artists create everyday sound effects, but for SpongeBob, the sounds were particularly zany, comical and dead-on cartoony effectiveness, adding immeasurably to the fun.

Meanwhile, back to the fundraiser for the pod. Cody Cooley who plays crusty curmudgeon, Squidward Q. Tentacles, SpongeBob's four-legged, clarinet-playing co-worker, dares to dream. He's always longed to have his moment in the spotlight and perhaps the fundraiser will be his last chance before the world ends. What follows is the quintessential, big Broadway show-stopper of a number starring Squidward and a chorus line of tap-dancing, fuchsia sea anemones. The wow-factor is off-the-charts for this number.

Review: THE SPONGEBOB MUSICAL at Golden Gate Theatre
Cody Cooley as Squidward Q. Tentacles

Will SpongeBob, Sandy Cheeks and Patrick Star save the day? I think you probably know. But the fun is in getting there. With a spectacular cast, great effects and a loveable sea sponge who refuses to be downcast, even as doomsday draws near, it's a much-needed frothy, fun and big-hearted escape in these doom-and-gloom times of our own.


Conceived and Directed: Tina Landau
Music and Lyrics: Yolanda Adams, Steven Tyler & Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Sara Bareilles, Jonathan Coulton, Alex Ebert of Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, The Flaming Lips, Lady Antebellum, Cyndi Lauper & Rob Hyman, John Legend, Panic! At the Disco, Plain White T's, They Might Be Giants, T.I., Domani & Lil'C, and songs by David Bowie & Brian Eno, Tom Kenny & Andy Paley; additional lyrics by Jonathan Coulton and music by Tom Kitt

Golden Gate Theatre, San Francisco

Photos courtesy of Jeremy Daniel

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