First airing in 1999, “SpongeBob SquarePants” is now one of the longest-running cartoons in television history. The show has also inspired at least two spin-off series and three movies, with more on the way. In 2016, “The SpongeBob Musical” arrived on stage, first in Chicago and later Broadway. It was nominated for numerous awards, including a dozen Tony awards in 2018 (and winning one) along the way.
Now “The SpongeBob Musical” has come to Toby’s Dinner Theatre and this production makes it easy to understand the show’s popularity. It captures much of the zany spirit of the beloved cartoon in a live show set to an engaging, yet wildly diverse, musical score.
The show is anchored by SpongeBob, portrayed by Kyle Dalsimer. Appearing here in his debut headlining role, Dalsimer does a splendid job of capturing SpongeBob’s distinctive vocal mannerisms and cadence, as well as his infectiously optimistic spirit. He is also excellent at conveying the rubbery, body movements of a cartoon character.
…great fun, both for children and adult SpongeBob fans!
SpongeBob is accompanied by two of his closest friends, Patrick Star and Sandy Cheeks. Patrick is played by Toby veteran, DeCarlo Raspberry. His Patrick is not simply stupid, but shows occasional flashes of wisdom. Mr. Raspberry also displays a compelling singing voice, especially in the show-stopping “Super Sea-Star Savior.” Janine Sunday is also excellent as Sandy Cheeks, capturing the character’s Texas-inspired, vocal mannerisms and delivery, as well as her karate-chopping physicality.
A favorite of both this reviewer (and also of his 13-year-old daughter, who also attended) was Sheldon Plankton, played with superb, comedic malevolence by Joey Ellinghaus. Ellinghaus captures the richness of Plankton’s voice and diction, both in speech and in song, even while rapping. Both he and Amanda Kaplan (who plays Plankton’s computer wife, Karen) get the audience to accept them in human form, even though in the TV show, Plankton is nearly microscopic in size and Karen is a computer monitor.
The music is a star as well. Many well-known musicians have contributed songs to the show, including Cyndi Lauper and Rob Hyman’s “Hero is My Middle Name” and the Steven Tyler and Joe Perry’s “Bikini Bottom Boogie.” Other notable contributors include the Flaming Lips, Lady Antebellum, and Panic! At the Disco. Particularly noteworthy is They Might Be Giant’s remarkably-staged “I’m Not a Loser,” wonderfully performed by Squidward (Darren McDonnell) and the Sea Anemones. Also remarkable is T.I.’s “When the Going Gets Tough,” splendidly performed by Plankton and the townspeople.
True to “SpongeBob,” both parody and homages to contemporary people, events, and cultural forms are included. One example is found in the Town Mayor. While staying true to the script, Toby veteran, Santina Maiolatesi, puckishly portrays this character with overtones of certain national political figures. The Electric Skates are clearly a self-absorbed boy band. Echoes of other Broadway favorites can be heard, including “Super Sea-Star Savior” (riffing off “Jesus Christ, Superstar”), “When the Going Gets Tough” (“Hamilton”), and “Daddy Knows Best” (“Cabaret”).
The staging of the show is generally excellent. Simple props with clever lighting are used to convey mountain climbing, volcanic eruptions, and undersea locations. The main exception to this simplicity is the occasional appearance of actor-operated jellyfish which beautifully convey the ethereal majesty of these sea creatures. Flo Arnold’s costumes and hair design by Janine Sunday and Jayson Kueberth are outstanding, especially for the various, unnamed sea creatures. Their work conveys the otherworldliness of life undersea, while still being inviting.
The show features live musical accompaniment, including a Foley (sound effects) artist. As described above, both the vocals and instrumental music are first rate. Occasionally, when multiple people were singing, it was difficult to make out all of the lyrics. While an excellent sound effect, Squidward’s characteristic walking sound could not always be heard.
“The SpongeBob Musical” is great fun, both for children and adult SpongeBob fans. While the story follows themes similar to those of the TV show, the live cast and Tony-nominated music has much to recommend it.
Running Time: Approximately two hours and fifteen minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.
“The SpongeBob Musical” runs through July 31, 2022 at Toby’s Dinner Theatre, 5900 Symphony Woods Road in Columbia, MD 21044. Tickets can be purchased by calling the box office at 410-730-8311 or by going online here. Click here for Toby’s Dinner Theatre COVID policy.