SpongeBob may be a good soul, but you don’t mess around with Mr. SquarePants. The brainchild of marine biologist Stephen Hillenberg, the Nickelodeon property has amassed a cult following since its 1999 debut. So when the producers set their sights on Broadway, they were eager to break the musical mold. And with a score spun from artists including John Legend, The Flaming Lips, Cyndi Lauper, and Aersosmith’s Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, The SpongeBob Musical is anything but standard.
“Early on,” says director Tina Landau, “I listened to the soundtrack of The SpongeBob Movie, and it was full of songs by all kinds of artists. I thought, Why can’t a Broadway score sound like that?”
It can. When the dastardly Plankton sets out to hoodwink the denizens of Bikini Bottom, he sings a number created by T.I. that Landau compares to Harold Hill’s “Ya Got Trouble” from The Music Man. And for a bonding moment between SpongeBob and BFF Patrick Star, Landau turned to Chicago’s Plain White T’s. “They are stuck inside, and rather than getting bored, they realize they’ve got each other and that’s all they need,” says frontman Tom Higgenson. “Plain White T’s is famous for their love songs, so this was a perfect fit.”
Massaging each number is music supervisor Tom Kitt, who arranged the stage adaption of Green Day’s American Idiot. “With so many different artists, SpongeBob is like a musical stew,” he says. “I want to celebrate those unique sensibilities while making sure the score is cohesive.” Sounds delicious. June 7-July 23, Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph St., 800-775-2000
PHOTOGRAPHY BY C BRANDON/REDFERNS (COULTON), ADAM BERRY/REDFERNS (THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS), DAVID BECKER (LADY ANTEBELLUM), STEVE THORNE/REDFERNS (LEGEND), RICK
DIAMOND (THE FLAMING LIPS), DAVID A. BELOFF (PLAIN WHITE T’S), LAURA CAVANAUGH/FILMMAGIC (LAUPER), KEVIN WINTER (PANIC! AT THE DISCO), LARRY MARANO/GETTY IMAGES (AEROSMITH),
GIJSBERT HANEKROOT/REDFERNS (BOWIE) ALL VIA GETTY IMAGES; MONICA MCKLINSKI/WIREIMAGE (DIRTY PROJECTORS); MICHAEL BUCKNER/GETTY IMAGES FOR VARIETY (SPONGEBOB