The company of SpongeBob SquarePants. Photo by Joan Marcus.
The reviews are in for Nickelodeon’s first venture onto Broadway, bringing the animated characters of Bikini Bottom to life in Tina Landau’s production.
The Palace Theatre, 1564 Broadway
Book by Kyle Jarrow
Music Supervision, Orchestrations and Arrangements by Tom Kitt
Choreography by Christopher Gattelli
Musical Production Conceived and Directed by Tina Landau
Cast: Ethan Slater, Gavin Lee, Lilli Cooper, Brian Ray Norris, Wesley Taylor, Danny Skinner
Ben Brantley – New York Times
For what it’s worth — and we’re talking millions of dollars here — you are never going to see as convincing an impersonation of a two-dimensional cartoon by a three-dimensional human as that provided by Ethan Slater at the Palace Theater. Mr. Slater plays the title role in “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical,” the ginormous giggle of a show that opened on Monday night.
Marilyn Stasio – Variety
Children should feel free to take their parents to Tina Landau’s psychedelically inspired version of the whimsical kiddie cartoon show that’s been making a fortune for Nickelodeon since 1999. Kyle Jarrow’s book retains the two key elements of the Nicktoon: the cheerful sea sponge’s unquenchable optimism and his selflessly heroic efforts to rescue his friends from whatever problems happen to pop up. But Landau’s hallucinogenic stagecraft transcends the show’s television origins by speaking a visual language that’s three-dimensional and boldly theatrical.
Alexis Soloski – The Guardian
et’s begin with a shocker: the pants are not square. They are not rectangular. Really, there’s not a right angle to be found. In SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical, the director Tina Landau takes an affectionate though clearly not slavish attitude to the poriferous hero who led the late 90s Nickelodeon cartoon. All of the expected characters are here, in more and less altered form, and the two-and-a-half-hour show has plenty of time to nod to the series’ running jokes. But the most exciting sequences arise when Landau puts cartoon plots aside and concentrates on delivering the sugar-shock visual pleasure.
Diane Snyder – The Telegraph
arlier this year Glenn Close was belting out ballads in the Palace Theatre in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard. Now the grand playhouse has been transformed into a brightly festive Bikini Bottom, underwater home of that bubbly, lovable cartoon character and cultural phenomenon SpongeBob SquarePants, making his Broadway debut in a self-titled musical that’s an absolute delight.
Joe Dziemianowicz – NY Daily News
There’s a breakout star turn, to boot. At the center of the musical based on the popular Nickelodeon cartoon is Ethan Slater, a powerhouse performer who brings real emotion to the character. That’s something when you’re playing a square yellow sponge who lives in a pineapple with a meowing pet snail on the floor of the Pacific Ocean. The Broadway rookie delivers athletic, aerobic, over-the-top joy.
Chris Jones – Chicago Tribune
And it is to the credit of Tina Landau and Ethan Slater, respectively the determined, big-hearted director and the charming, gifted star of “SpongeBob SquarePants” which opened, hopefully, Monday night at the Palace Theatre, that they have stayed relentlessly focused not only on the show’s famously goofy optimism but on its happily anarchic aesthetic. Whatever price that involved paying.
Jeremy Gerard – Deadline
Indeed, the show works so hard to amuse us with irreverent kickiness that by the time we return from intermission, the stupor induced by the Act I assault on the senses may have been enhanced by alcohol to put you in a fog. So my advice: Stay away from the bar. For, first-act problems aside, this show, ingeniously staged by Tina Landau and choreographed by Christopher Gattelli within an inch of its CO2 life, has more to offer than we had any right to expect in this era of dreary Broadway knockoffs of Hollywood dross. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, eat your heart out.
Sara Holdren – Vulture
That is the question. And now the big, bubbly, neon-sparkly, multicolor, confetti-covered love boat of an answer has cast anchor on Broadway. Under the joyfully maximalist hand of Steppenwolf vet Tina Landau (who also directed the show’s Chicago premiere), Bikini Bottom gets the more-is-more-is-more-is-more treatment, with a DIY twist that’s both endlessly charming and integral to the production’s spirit. No one is trying to pretend that this SpongeBob isn’t backed by massive treasure chests, but that booty isn’t put to work trying to create a slick illusion. Instead, Landau and her team have embraced a playful, pack-ratty spirit. Their world is a collage, a crafty collection of flotsam and jetsam piled high into an ingenious, often inspired playground.
Howard Miller – Talkin’ Broadway
If nautical nonsense be something you wish, you can either (a) drop on the deck and flop like a fish, or (b) head on out to the Palace Theatre where mayhem reigns supreme with the opening of SpongeBob SquarePants, the wildest romp of a musical Broadway has seen in many a season. It’s rather like being inside of an exploding Polynesian tiki restaurant. All that’s missing is the pu pu platter (for which you can always substitute a plate of delicious Krabby Patties!)
Barbara Schuler – Newsday
Ethan Slater, in his Broadway debut, perfectly captures SpongeBob’s enthusiastic approach to life from the moment he’s discovered curled up inside the pineapple he calls home. Slater, who’s been with this project for nearly five years through workshops and the Chicago tryouts, has the signature nasal voice down pat and he moves like a latter-day Ray Bolger, though with considerably more athleticism.
Isabella Beidenharn – Entertainment Weekly
Not everything works, and there’s often too much going on onstage at any given moment. On TV, the show’s outlandish wackiness is smartly confined to two 11-minute segments per episode. So it’s something of a challenge to stay fully invested and interested in this world for two hours and 30 minutes. But SpongeBob certainly deserves points for creativity.
Matt Windman – AM New York
Despite some weak spots, the new Broadway musical adaptation of the Nickelodeon cartoon “SpongeBob SquarePants” works well enough as a lively, silly, trippy show appealing to kids, Millennials and anyone who has watched the TV show since it premiered in 1999.