Review: I am not a simple sponge

MCHS’s musical, inspired by the long-running Nickelodeon show features a colorful, quirky collection of songs


Nikki Sisson

The cast of MCHS’s “SpongeBob: The Musical” sing on stage during a rehearsal on March 6 in the Upper Campus Auditorium.

Gabe Santos, Arts and Entertainment Editor

The MCHS Theatre Department is well into the spring musical season and this year they’re putting together a real showstopper. “The SpongeBob Musical” which debuted on broadway in December of 2017 with the original cast recording being released that same year is a maximalist, over the top show that captures the essence of the cartoon to a tee, and the cast recording manages the same feat even without visuals. 

In order to convey character and story, especially with subjects such as SpongeBob, Patrick and Squidward, the actors need to play up their performances, and with this cast recording, it’s even more of a challenge as there are no accompanying visuals. However, the vocal performances are both impressive, and well acted. In particular, Emmy Raver-Lampman’s performance as “Pearl Krabs” has the most astonishing vocals in the show, like on “Daddy Knows Best” where she belts with expert perfection and power that leaves the listener starstruck. 

When the musical was first announced, to say people were skeptical would be a vast understatement. Largely, adaptations of popular media on broadway are rarely successful, and nobody expected it to be very good. However, director Tina Landau had a unique method for constructing the music for the show that would result in something very special. The cast recording boasts writing credits from David Bowie, Cyndi Lauper, Panic! At The Disco, T.I. and Aerosmith, among others. The method of outsourcing for the songs was a big risk, as the songs could’ve felt too different, however this was not the case. In a pleasant surprise, “The SpongeBob Musical” became critically acclaimed, and the writing takes a lot of credit for this. Attempting to make a large scale broadway production feel like a cartoon like SpongeBob was a challenge, but it was accomplished with flying colors, and particularly on the cast recording, the lyrics and character writing (primarily based on a book by Kyle Jarrow) shines most on the opening number “Bikini Bottom Day.” 

Production was also outsourced, with collaboration between the artists and Tom Kitt, who was in charge of making sure it all flowed together. He and the artists they reached out to perfectly captured the essence of the show, and how vast and applicable it is to multiple genres. There’s regular broadway music, ‘70s glam rock, polka, rap, gospel and more. Particularly though, the standout when it comes to instruments on the cast recording is “Bikini Bottom Boogie,” which was written with help from Aerosmith. It’s a classic rock song with great energy, vocal layering, and guitar work that makes it very satisfying to listen to.

This surprise hit on Broadway is also a surprise hit on the ears. This musical truly ascends the need for visuals with the cast recording— a real perfect storm of variables all coming together to make it work. Now the MCHS Theatre Department faces the challenge of matching that energy. “

‘The SpongeBob Musical” opens in the Upper Campus Auditorium on the March 9. Any kind of fan of SpongeBob or musicals will not only love the show, but should make it a point to see MCHS’s production.