By Mara Capti
Based on the well-known and loved cartoon by Stephen Hillenburg, The SpongeBob Musical features original songs by a host of popular artists including Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Sarah Bareiles, Cyndi Lauper, John Legend, Panic! At the Disco, Plain White T’s, T.I., and many more! The play follows Spongebob, Patrick, Sandy and others as they team up on a mission to save Bikini Bottom from a volcanic eruption; meanwhile, their rival at the Chum Bucket, Plankton, is up to no good as he plans to take advantage of the ensuing chaos to benefit his own interests. Hilarity ensues and friendships are tested in this musical adventure!
There were many great things worth noting about the incredible talents and efforts of the Pima Community College Theatre students. However, there were, unfortunately, also production issues and directorial decisions that I feel heavily impacted the overall quality of the show.
The lighting and set design transports audiences to what we love and know as the underwater town of Bikini Bottom. The sound production unfortunately fell short as balancing volume in group numbers at times was highly distorted or imbalanced, making it difficult to hear the soloist as well. A few of the soloists were singing in the lower end of their vocal register and as a result the mics would at times not pick up their words or notes. That was not the only barrier, though, as on top of that, the sound system used did not fill the space as a whole or round out effectively for audience listening. I found it an interesting choice to not alter the keys of a few of the lead roles, considering that there were three lower vocal part roles (tenor/baritone/bass) played by three higher vocal singers (alto, Soprano). I would be remiss to not mention this incredible feat conquered by three incredibly talented performers: Samantha Beemer, Allie Devaney, and Kendall Hicks. Having heard all of these actors perform vocally in other settings, I know the disadvantage they were up against by not getting to sing in the most comfortable parts of their registers. That being said, they absolutely killed it. And it only got better when they had group features. My favorite example of this was the music number “BFF.” This is vocal talent and versatility at its finest and I am encouraged to see such skill in young, rising performers!
Staging choices overall for the production were good, but there was some difficulty at times for the actors speaking to be seen by the audience members on the orchestra floor. On the positive side, though, there were also staging choices that really physically pulled the audience in and made you feel part of the camaraderie and mission to save Bikini Bottom! An example of this is the dance numbers that come out into the house walkways, wonderfully choreographed by Lena Quach. It’s always a treat to see more modern and hip-hop dance styles featured in theatre.
There are nostalgic and reminiscent character choices as well as new character interpretations that these students have worked incredibly hard on to bring to life. With those expectations in mind, I recommend that local theatre and SpongeBob fans come out and support the Pima Theatre program. As a member of the community who works in social services with youth and children’s theatre, I would advise for the families interested in seeing the production with young children to be aware that the show contains some adult situations and content. That being said, patrons should storm the box offices for a chance to see independent and sultry Plankton steal the dance floor.
The show runs Feb. 24 – March 6, Thursday – Saturday at 7 p.m., Sunday at 1 p.m., ASL Night: March 3 at the Pima West Campus, Proscenium Theatre, 2202 W, Anklam Rd. 85709. Tickets are $18 – $24, with student discounts available. Tickets can be purchased at pima.edu/arts. The box office is open Tuesday – Friday 12-5 and one hour prior to each performance. 520-206-6986, firstname.lastname@example.org.