Your next big squeeze: ‘SpongeBob Musical,’ set for world premiere in Chicago

SHARE Your next big squeeze: ‘SpongeBob Musical,’ set for world premiere in Chicago
SHARE Your next big squeeze: ‘SpongeBob Musical,’ set for world premiere in Chicago

SpongeBob Squarepants, that high-energy, high-spirited sea sponge who lives in a pineapple under the sea and is the centerpiece of Nickelodeon’s hugely popular animated television series, is about to have a musical of his own. And it will have its pre-Broadway world premiere in Chicago.

Co-conceived and directed by Tina Landau (a longtime Steppenwolf Theatre ensemble member), with a book by Kyle Jarrow and music supervision by Tom Kitt, “The SpongeBob Musical” is set for a limited engagement June 7-July 3, 2016, at the Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph. It will feature original songs by Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Jonathan Coulton, Dirty Projectors, the Flaming Lips, John Legend, Lady Antebellum, Cyndi Lauper, Panic! at the Disco, Plain White T’s, They Might Be Giants and T.I., with an additional song by David Bowie and additional lyrics by Coulton.

Tina Landau, director and co-creator of the new show, “SpongeBob Musical.”

Tina Landau, director and co-creator of the new show, “SpongeBob Musical.”

Casting will be announced shortly. The production includes scenic and costume design by David Zinn, lighting design by Kevin Adams, projection design by Peter Nigrini and sound design by Walter Trarbach. Plans are for the musical to open on Broadway during the 2016-2017 season.

The story line? The end is near. Only one sponge can save the day. But he’s going to need help from some of the greatest songwriters in rock and pop music history. Billed as “a rousing tale of a simple sea sponge who faces the unfathomable,” it promises to be “acelebration of unbridled hope, unexpected heroes, and pure theatrical invention.”

In a prepared statement, Landau said: “I was drawn to this project not only for its wild theatrical possibility, but also because I felt ‘SpongeBob,’ at its core, is a layered and hilarious ensemble comedy. SpongeBob himself is of course its center and beating heart — the eternal innocent in a sea of cynics. He’s also the classic underdog hero, and so our production sets him on a hero’s journey with real stakes, all the while retaining the show’s trippy humor and irreverence.

“We’re taking our leads from the TV show but this is an original story, with an original design approach, and original songs written just for the occasion by an amazing array of songwriters. We will present the world of Bikini Bottom and its characters in a whole new way that can only be achieved in the live medium of the theater. We’re bringing the show’s fabled characters to life through actors — not prosthetics or costumes that hide them — and we’re deploying some unconventional stage craft that will prove that anything can happen in Bikini Bottom.”

Noting that “SpongeBob” long ago “transcended the TV screen to become a pop culture icon inspiring everyone from kids and families to artists and musicians, pro athletes, movie stars, fashion designers, social media mavens and even the president,” Cyma Zarghami, president of the Viacom division that oversees Nickelodeon, added: “This character has achieved a level of global popularity that we could never have imagined, and bringing him to Broadway is a way to give him a new platform, literally, to reach audiences of all ages who are looking for an engaging, funny and innovative musical theatre experience.”

Russell Hicks, Nickelodeon’s president of content development and production, said, “We decided early on that we would only bring SpongeBob to Broadway if we could find someone with a wholly unique take on these beloved characters. The innovation Tina Landau is bringing to the staging is matched with an equally fun and surprising set of original songs we’ve culled from a dream team of SpongeBob fans who happen to be top-flight musical artists, like David Bowie, John Legend, Cyndi Lauper, Lady Antebellum and T.I.”

Since premiering on Nickelodeon in July 1999, “SpongeBob SquarePants” has emerged as a pop culture phenomenon. The series has been the most-watched animated program with kids for more than 13 consecutive years, and over the past several years, it has averaged more than 1 million total viewers every quarter across all Nickelodeon networks. As the most widely distributed property in Viacom history, SpongeBob is seen in over 185 countries and translated in more than 50 languages. The Paramount Pictures feature film “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water,” premiered on Feb. 6, landing at No. 1 opening weekend and going on to be a major hit globally.

Landau’s numerous productions with Steppenwolf include “The Wheel,” “The Brother/Sister Plays,” “The Tempest,” “The Time of Your Life,” “The Cherry Orchard,” “Ballad of Little J” and “Berlin Circle.” She wrote the book and additional lyrics for the musical “Floyd Collins.” And on Broadway she has directed the revival of “Bells Are Ringing” and Tracy Letts’ “Superior Donuts.” Kyle Barrow, who is writing the book for the “SpongeBob” musical, is the Obie Award-winning playwright of “A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant.”

“The SpongeBob Musicalwill be part of the Broadway In Chicago series on sale in October. Group tickets for 10 or more are now on sale by calling Broadway In Chicago Group Sales at (312) 977-1710. Individual tickets for the show will go on sale at a later date. For more information, visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com.

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