by Lauren Means | photos courtesy Jeremy Daniel
?Who lives in a pineapple and is now at TPAC? Sponge-Bob-Square-Pants!?
That’s right! SpongeBob and the rest of the Bikini Bottom crew hit Nashville Tuesday night at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. The Broadway award-winning musical opened to a crowded theater full of those young and young at heart.
The premise of the show is that Bikini Bottom is soon to cease to exist after a volcano, Mount Humongous, erupts. While everyone digests the news in their own ways, in true fashion, SpongeBob, played by Lorenzo Pugliese, begins to develop a plan to save Bikini Bottom. He enlists his friends, Sandy Cheeks played by Daria Pilar Redus, and Patrick Star, played by Beau Bradshaw, to help him on his quest.
Of course, everyone else has their own agendas. Mr. Krabs is trying to use the impending doom to sell more Krabby Patties; Pearl is trying to meet her favorite band; Plankton is trying to hypnotize the town to like his restaurant; and Squidward is trying to get on stage.
How they are able to transform the stage into a two-hour cartoon is exceptional. It’s no surprise the show won a Tony award for Best Scenic Design of a Musical in 2018. It’s bright and flashy which helps match the tone of the cartoon. They work wonders with the props and the physical acting done by the ensemble to create an immersive experience.
The musical score and sound effects are also a major contributor to the magic of the musical. It’s worth noting that a Foley Artist/Percussionist in the show, Ryan Blihovde, is a graduate of Belmont University.
Also, a highlight of the show is the soundtrack. Each song in the show is written by a famous/mainstream artist like Aerosmith, John Legend, and Lady Antebellum.
The costume design is impeccable. They were so good with the costumes, wigs, and accessories; I oftentimes found myself forgetting this was live-action and not on tv. Squidward, played by Cody Cooley, was my favorite costume by far. The multiple legs on one person kept throwing me off. All of the cast were on point and I related most to Mrs. Puff, played by Natalie L. Chapman, and her desire to drink the tragedy away.
Much like Patrick’s mind, the inner machinations of this show are an enigma in the way they are able to weave hot-button points from today’s political landscape into a staple of pop culture. From discussing how we can trust the government (wink, wink) to the sea creatures trying to force Sandy Cheeks out with signs saying “Squirrels Go Home” because she is different and they think she caused the eruption, it was impressive that the writers/producers/directors did not shy away from topics like immigration in the story.
I must say, my favorite thing about this show is the wide range of people who came to see it and how it’s allowing the younger generation to get interested in the arts.
You still have several chances to catch this show before it leaves Nashville. For more information and tickets, visit tpac.org.