Broadway musicals have been built around comic-book characters such as Spider-Man, Annie, The Addams Family and Superman, or they’ve been based on popular children’s TV stars, such as Pee-wee Herman. And of course for more than 20 years Disney has been transforming its beloved animated movies into blockbusters. Now Nickelodeon aims to make a splash with The SpongeBob Musical, a new pop-scored extravaganza that starts performances at Chicago’s Oriental Theatre June 7, 2016, with plans to open on Broadway next fall or spring.
Directed by Tina Landau (known for more experimental work) the multimedia spectacle stars Nick’s excitable undersea denizen, SpongeBob SquarePants, saving the world with help from top-charting songwriters. The show’s score, according to the press release, will be “supervised” by Tom Kitt and made up of new songs by Aerosmith, Jonathan Coulton, Dirty Projectors, the Flaming Lips, John Legend, Lady Antebellum, Cyndi Lauper, Panic! At the Disco, They Might Be Giants and David Bowie. The book is by Kyle Jarrow, still legendary in New York theater circles for his subversively brilliant A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant.
Making a movie about SpongeBob and his motley aquatic buds is one thing, but can the cartoon star stay afloat in a stage show? When asked if the production will incorporate puppets or animatronics, the publicist referred us to Landau’s quote: “We’re bringing the show’s fabled characters to life through actors—not prosthetics or costumes that hide them—and we’re deploying some unconventional stagecraft that will prove that anything can happen in Bikini Bottom.”