This weekend and next, Nikiski Middle/High School is putting on “SpongeBob Squarepants: The Broadway Musical,” in the school’s auditorium.
The actors portray a variety of recognizable characters from the Nickelodeon show, but all said the musical is a stark departure from its source material — that audiences would be surprised by its depth and quality.
In the title role is Jackson Hooper, who described the character as optimistic, but with a lot of fear bubbling under the surface. He said the show opens for SpongeBob on another “best day ever,” but then his boss tells him he doesn’t have what it takes to be a manager, and then a volcano threatens to destroy his town.
The residents of Bikini Bottom have to decide how they’re going to either escape the oncoming cataclysm or spend their final days — with a whole lot of singing and dancing.
Unlike the television show, which Hooper said was “very energetic,” he said the characters in the musical are taken “down a step” and made more human and relatable.
Oliver Parrish, in the role of SpongeBob’s best friend Patrick Star, said he was brand new to theater, and that the character was a good fit because the choreography and vocal range weren’t too demanding.
The show is going to be a surprise for a lot of people, Parrish said.
“It’s not going to be what they’re expecting.”
Kincaid Jenness plays Squidward Tentacles, with a neat extra set of legs rigged onto his own — crafted of pool noodles and an extra pair of jeans by the costuming team from a design by Becky Porter.
“He’s been living his whole life strapped to the Krusty Krab, and he has to dream of being a big star, and he keeps trying to get his big moment that keeps getting interrupted,” Kincaid said.
That moment comes in a colorful tap dance number in the show’s second act.
Putting on a southern accent for the show is Maggie Grenier, playing Sandy Cheeks, the genius squirrel from Texas. She said that mixing the accent with Sandy’s technical explanations of her inventions had provided a particular challenge, especially at Sandy’s “excitable” pace.
“People are gonna be a little hesitant, but it’s actually really funny, and I think people are gonna enjoy the music,” she said. “People are expecting a cartoonish kind of thing and it’s gonna be this amazing production.”
The villainous Sheldon J. Plankton is realized by Oshie Broussard, dressed in a three-piece suit and an eyepatch.
In preparation for the auditions, Broussard listened to songs from the show, and was immediately taken by “When the Going Gets Tough,” a first act song in which Plankton has a fast rap line. Broussard wanted a fast rap line.
“The musical is nothing like the show,” Broussard said. “It’s a lot more intricate and it’s a lot more fun than the show.”
Most of the actors reported little to no history with the original “SpongeBob SquarePants” series. Hooper said he watched a few episodes after he was cast, but instead looked to the Broadway performance by Ethan Slater for inspiration. Grenier said she had never seen the show, but quickly gravitated to Sandy for being fun, flamboyant and loud.
In contrast, Parrish said he had grown up watching the show. He said it was fun to engage more creatively with a character he’s watched for so long — now portraying him onstage for an audience.
Director Carla Jenness said that any musical is an opportunity to bring in talent from the community — for the young actors in the show, and for others who help with set design and costuming. Some of the decorations were donated from other events, and Nikiski band director Chris Singh participates in the show as “the Foley Fish,” handling side effects and music from a DJ booth in front of the stage.
Carla said they’ve had trouble communicating what exactly the show is. She said she’s seen people turn up their nose at the sponge who lives in a pineapple under the sea. When her daughter first brought the musical to her, she said she recoiled similarly.
“I hate that TV show, it’s so annoying,” she said.
But she gave it a try and was won over by its creativity and its color — and of course its music.
“SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical” is very different from the syndicated cartoon running on Nickelodeon.
“It’s not that. It’s Broadway, it’s elevated. It’s not a kid in a yellow cardboard box.”
The Broadway musical first debuted in 2016, and was nominated for 12 Tony Awards, winning one. Flyers for Nikiski’s production espouse the tracklist, which features writing by David Bowie, Cyndi Lauper, Aerosmith, They Might Be Giants, Yolanda Adams, T.I., The Plain White T’s, Sara Bareilles and Panic! At the Disco.
“The music’s amazing, it’s a great message of coming together and it’s funny,” Jenness said. “Kind of subversive.”
She said that the script was “really smart,” poking at government and the media, and that she hopes people give the show a chance.
On Facebook, Jenness wrote “If you love the TV show you’ll love the musical! If you hate the TV show you’ll REALLY love the musical!”
Nikiski Middle/High School Drama’s “SpongeBob SquarePants” will play at the Nikiski Middle/High School Auditorium this week and next — April 28 and 29, May 5 and 6. Every show will be at 7 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online at triumviratetheatre.ticketleap.com.