Zach Petroff | Opinions Editor
Nov. 3, 2022
SpongeBob SquarePants has relocated from his pineapple under the sea to the bright stage at the Duquesne Genesius Theater.
Adapted from the hit Nickelodeon show, “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical” debuted at the Oriental Theater in Chicago in 2016. The critically acclaimed musical was nominated for 12 Tony Awards and will now be performed by the Red Masquers starting on Thursday and running through Nov. 19.
The children’s show, known for its zany yet well-intentioned messaging, brings a heart-filled tale to the stage. The show, through humor and song, iterates the themes of believing in oneself, friendship and the importance of accepting everyone.
“We’ve been trying to get the rights to perform SpongeBob for a few years now and this year was it.” Red Masquers President Victoria Kapfer said. “We just thought this show would provide some joy to our audience and allow them to spend a few hours immersed in a cartoon brought to life.”
While it may be based on the Nickelodeon show, there is something for the whole family in this nostalgic adaptation of the Broadway musical. With a musical score that features the work of artists such as the late David Bowie, the Plain White T’s, T.I., Cyndi Lauper, Panic! At the Disco and other mainstream artists, the catchy pop tunes will leave audience members singing along with their favorite childhood cartoon characters.
“All of the songs are impossible not to move along to and overall add to the fantastical atmosphere we want audiences to experience,” Kapfer said.
Bringing cartoon characters to life can be a unique challenge for the Red Masquers, according to stage manager and Duquesne alumnus Elysee Dalzell.
“This was the most technically heavy show I’ve ever done. We have projections, lights, music, people and props coming from every direction. The biggest challenge was keeping it all together,” Dalzell said.
The ability to bring a cartoon setting onto the stage requires creativity and imagination. Audience members will be transported to Bikini Bottom with the help of the imaginative and creative set design that includes an animated backdrop.
“Everyone knows Bikini Bottom,” Dalzell said. “We had to bring the color and the fun of that town to the stage because it’s so familiar. SpongeBob is also on a mission to save his home. If we don’t show you Bikini Bottom, then what town is there to save?”
Along with the set design, the use of costumes ignites a natural blend of imagination while staying true to the characters.
“We asked our actors to be cartoons. Be silly and big and fun. Adding costumes and props is another layer of the cartoon, but you have to act like one first,” Dalzell said.
Lead actress and props co-chair Ellie Troiani is playing the role of SpongeBob SquarePants. The veteran Red Masquer is ready for the lead role as the spongy protagonist.
“I’ve had a lot of different roles here,” Troiani said. “I feel like this one is most physically challenging. I’m doing a lot of backbends and crawling through things and climbing up things.”
Finding the way to blend the character’s iconic high-tone voice into her musical range provided an achievable challenge for Troiani, who prepared for the role by listening to the Broadway version.
“Ethan Slater, who played the original SpongeBob SquarePants, his voice is very high-pitched and nasally, but not exactly like SpongeBob. It has the essence of SpongeBob but still in a way that he can sing healthily and do the show healthily…That’s what I’m focused on, trying to make sure my voice holds up for the duration of the run,” Trioiani said.
The show, while most notably charming, also has a dynamic layer of chemistry between the actors. SpongeBob and Patrick are able to recreate their friendship on stage, while Plankton and Karen really drive home the villainous nature of their characters.
The excitement from the cast spills over to the audience, creating a fun-filled and relaxed atmosphere. The crowd involvement and the breaking of the fourth-wall bring the audience into the performance.
“Everyone from the get-go has been so excited to do this show. It’s such an iconic cartoon that we’ve all grown up with, so everyone just immediately going into it was just like ‘Yes! I know how to do this show.’ I know how to be like a cartoon, which is really exciting to see them adapt their own personal personality as actors,” choreographer Katheryn Hess said.
Tickets for “SpongeBob the Musical” can be found on the Red Masquers website: $20 general admission and $10 for Duquesne affiliates. The show premieres on Thursday; the midnight showing is Nov. 12 and the show wraps on Nov. 19.