Review: The SpongeBob Musical (Meridian Hall)

Spongebob Squarepants musical brings Bikini Bay to Toronto

I was excited about taking my seven-year-old son to The SpongeBob Musical, but not sure what I would think myself. I am of an age where I was too old to be interested in SpongeBob when it first became a thing and was surprised that the franchise was still popular when I eventually had a child who was old enough to start watching the show. I have heard bits and pieces of the goings-on in Bikini Bottom while I do housework, but have never sat down for an episode.

The residents of Bikini Bottom are facing a crisis. An underwater volcanic eruption threatens to destroy their community. Spongebob (Lorenzo Pugliese), with the help of Sandy Cheeks (Daria Pilar Redus), an unlikely squirrel friend, must figure out how to save the town and thwart Patrick Star’s villainous scheme. Their efforts to save the town are hampered by the sea community’s distrust of the water-dwelling squirrel trying to help them.

My son was clearly entranced right off the bat. His face lit up with excitement at the colourful costumes representing the live-action versions of the cartoon characters. He was especially impressed and amazed by Squidward’s costume, which included two extra legs that appeared to move independently.

My lack of knowledge of the characters and general premise of the show did affect my ability to appreciate the humour. Some of the jokes relied upon tropes about the characters and went over my head. Nevertheless, the two and half hour show was well worth it for the joy on my child’s face throughout. The show has a lot of fun, peppy musical numbers with big group sings, dancing and some acrobatics. In fact, my son did himself a minor injury attempting to do a walking handstand as seen in the show and we had to have a “Don’t try this at home!” talk.

Lorenzo Pugliese was positively endearing in the role of Spongebob. Clearly it was not realistic to expect him to parade around for two hours in a bulky square sponge suit. They did a great job of bringing the character to life with a cheerful yellow shirt, suspenders and checked brown pants. This look combined with a warm stage presence and hearty, sweet tenor vocals was instrumental in selling the show.

Daria Pilar Redus was excellent as the out of place and innovative squirrel Sandy Cheeks. She and Pugliese have excellent chemistry on stage and made a convincing team. She also gave a solid and energized vocal performance.

Cody Cooley was a definite crowd-pleaser as Squidward, capturing the character’s trademark dour cynicism to a tee. His tap dance number with four legs, back-up dancers and lots of bling was a show-stealer.

I was especially impressed by the vocals of Méami Maszewski, who played the daughter of SpongeBob’s boss in a side story about running off to join a band. She has a rich, agile and bold gospel style and certainly shone in this supporting role.

This was a colourful, lively show with a positive message about building community and acceptance. I was a bit disappointed, however, that the residents of Bikini Bottom only accepted Sandy Cheeks once she had played an instrumental role in saving the town. This seemed to suggest that we should accept people who are different from us if they do something useful, rather than accepting and celebrating diversity for its own sake.

On the whole, this is a great family production enjoyed by grown-ups and children alike. In fact, I saw several audience members who were not accompanied by a minor, so don’t be shy if you want to go and don’t have a child to take!

Details:

  • The SpongeBob Musical is playing until December 22, 2019 at Meridian Hall (1 Front Street East)
  • Showtimes are 7:30 PM on December 17-21, with additional matinees at 2 PM on December 21 and 12:30 PM on December 22, 2019.
  • Tickets prices range from $35-150.
  • Tickets are available online.

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