When it was announced in 2015 that Nickelodeon would be bringing a SpongeBob musical to Broadway, you can imagine how many people reacted with a giant eye roll, particularly those of us who had PTSD from the Broadway production of The Little Mermaid, which had sea creatures “swimming” around the stage on roller skates. But to the surprise of—well, everyone—The SpongeBob Musical opened to respectful reviews, swept the Drama Desk Awards that year, and scored 12 Tony nominations, winning one for David Zinn’s set design. The musical never found its audience, though, and shuttered after less than a year, which won’t come as much of a surprise to anyone who has actually suffered through it.
Stinking up Boston’s Wang Theatre through Oct 27, this first national tour is no doubt a less polished, less elaborate version of the Broadway production that relies on Kyle Jarrow’s weak book to tell an even weaker story, punctuated by a crowd-sourced score by a slew of mostly A-list musicians, from Sara Bareilles and John Legend through the Flaming Lips, Cyndi Lauper, Panic! At the Disco, and T.I.
Set on what could be the last day in Bikini Bottom, an about-to-erupt volcano threatens the lives of all the creatures that call this particular segment of the sea home. Determined to prove that he’s more than just a simple sponge, SpongeBob (a committed—though exhausting—Lorenzo Pugliese) sets his sights on saving the day.
Looking like an arcade game that has been chewed up and vomited into an aquarium, some clever staging by director Tina Landau and choreographer Christopher Gattelli isn’t enough to salvage the evening for anyone old enough to order a drink at intermission. For those of age: drink up. You’ll need it.
In a theatrical world full of SpongeBobs, be a Frank N. Furter.
THE SPONGEBOB MUSICAL. THROUGH 10.27 AT THE WANG THEATRE, 270 TREMONT ST., BOSTON. BOCHCENTER.ORG