SpongeBob: The Musical is… Incredible?!


I have never written a review of a musical before, and I am in no way qualified to judge whether or not a musical has succeeded in being good, bad, or anywhere in between. My favorite musicals are Les Miserables and Cats, not exactly deep cuts. All I am really qualified to express are my true and totally subjective feelings. And, to my utmost surprise, SpongeBob: The Musical was incredible.

I didn’t watch SpongeBob as a kid, and when I first heard that it would be the subject of the final musical during my time at Shorecrest, I was a little disappointed. Going in, my expectations were low. I had listened to some of the Broadway cast recordings and was not impressed. But, I had several friends who were performing, and they had insisted it was definitely worth a watch, so I gave in and bought my ticket. It took one, maybe two musical numbers to realize that I was having a great time. During the song with the luminescent sponges, I was laughing in awe at the sheer creativity being displayed in front of me, and it was all uphill from there. Sure, the plot is predictable and simplistic, and the themes are, while all too relevant, dealt out with a hand heavier than a box of lead, but it’s just so much fun. There’s immense creativity in the costumes and sets, offering a more minimalist approach than one might expect, but one that completely works and emphasizes the show’s strengths. One of the reasons I think the show’s concept works so well is because during a musical one must suspend full disbelief. Characters will break into song and everyone on stage knows all the lyrics and choreography. However, SpongeBob comes from another medium full of suspended disbelief, animation. This makes the transition into the world so much easier than for, say, West Side Story. Why are they breaking into song? Who cares! It’s a talking sponge and his sea star best friend!

Jude Ziliak as SpongeBob, from the @shorecrestdrama Instagram.

The characters are already caricatures, allowing for another smooth transition for the actors and the audience. This creates performances that really shine. Payton Catt is perfectly cast as Mr. Krabs, he’s got the voice captured to perfection, and the mannerisms are immaculately portrayed with his giant boxing glove hands. The tap-dance song revealed Shivraj Raichur as the true star of the show, also perfecting the voice and mannerisms with his clever leg contraption following him everywhere. Jude Ziliak gives an electric performance as the titular lead, managing the charm and comedy of the character while completely avoiding the annoyance that is often created with other portrayals. Logan Yao once again proves his excellence, this time in the role of Patrick, nailing everything from the slack-jawed expressions to the drawn-out cluelessness of the character. Elizabeth Howlett as Sandy rounds out the heroic trio, showing off her perfect singing voice and Texas accent. Her enthusiasm for the performance exudes beautifully to the audience, and we are fully captivated and drawn in every time she is on stage. Harper Flynt is a delightful surprise as the fourth-wall-breaking Pirate Patchy, who appears before the show and during intermission to not only display the common courtesy of turning off your phone but also to deliver a comedic and exciting number just before the second act. Plankton is perfectly portrayed and exceptionally executed by the terrifically talented Marcio “Big Man” Reich. The villainous and comedic side of the tiny antagonist shines through with Marcio’s charisma and energy, aided by the extraordinary Vegas Valente as his digital wife Karen. Angelo Visser shows his abilities as a true triple threat with his recent heartfelt directorial release Saying Goodbye, his hilarious performance and direction in Maui Again, and this outstanding explosion as “the media fish” Perch Perkins. Henry Schoolcraft feels woefully underutilized with his incredible charisma and singing voice, but even as one of the three Electric Skates, he manages to steal the show whenever he’s on stage. And, of course, every time Mariah Matney opens her mouth to let out an explosive wail as Pearl, the audience is wowed and exhilarated, once again reassured of the bright future for the Shorecrest drama program.

I saw the show on Thursday night, which just happened to be the third show that day. I was amazed at the endurance of the players, as the show was tightly performed with the same enthusiasm I have seen from every Shorecrest production. Of course, it wasn’t only the featured players that carried the show through to the finish line; the entire production team did an excellent job, especially the live foley and the members of the pit orchestra. George Davis killed it on the drums as always, keeping the rhythmic backbone of the show together. Some excellent piano work from Calvin Rice and Niko Hudecek, as well as standout features from the guitars and flutists. Even the stagehands got a chance to shine in the climactic and high-tension mountain climb. I wasn’t worried that SpongeBob and Sandy might fall off, but rather that the spinning wall structures would run into each other and Jude and Elizabeth might fall. But, I needn’t have worried, the crew kept the chaos organized and the show running smoothly.

Marcio Reich as Plankton, from the @shorecrestdrama Instagram.

Like everyone in the Shoreline community, I was devastated by the tragic cancellation of the previous musical due to COVID. Stage has never been my passion, but I have always enjoyed coming together with my school to celebrate the immense talent of our performers. I can hardly believe I’m saying it, but SpongeBob the musical has announced with beautiful streamers and pirate cannons that Shorecrest Drama has made its triumphant return. As a senior, this final performance has meant a lot to me personally. Seeing people I’ve known most of my life on stage giving their hearts to the audience and their souls to the performance have left me overflowing with joy and admiration. Marcio Reich, Harper Flynt, and Elizabeth Howlett, the three stars of the Lake Forest Park Elementary stage, thank you for consistently entertaining us, bringing joy, love, and laughter to all of us for many years, and thank you for continuing to shine. What an unexpectedly beautiful sendoff from a musical about a talking sponge recruiting a squirrel and a starfish to save their city from a volcano that erupts beach balls.

If you missed your chance to go see SpongeBob: The Musical, you’d better invent a time machine and go back to see it. It is an absolute delight and I couldn’t have been more pleased with the return to the Shorecrest stage. Sometimes you just need to have some fun and escape to a world of singing fish to realize a story about coming together and loving each other.