By Joanne Engelhardt
When you’ve never watched one single cartoon episode of Spongebob Squarepants, you’re at a bit of a disadvantage seeing the latest Palo Alto Players production, The Spongebob Musical.
The set is so full of spectacular lights, sounds and moving parts, the characters are so darn silly (but likeable), the musical score amazingly diverse, and the costumes so colorfully imaginative that there’s plenty to occupy your eyes, ears and other facial appendages.
A colorfully designed set including neon lights…
Now at the Lucie Stern Theater in Palo Alto through Sunday, May 14, the show starts way before the show starts when several gigantic beach balls get tossed back and forth, over and around the audience. Then Patchy the Pirate (Dane Lentz) comes out to tell the audience that he really wants to join the fun, but no one has invited him. Patchy seems a bit superfluous, but at least he’s not around long.
PAP’s executive director, Elizabeth Santana, admits she’s a bit baffled by the 30-to-40-year-olds turning out nightly to see the show. That was certainly the case on opening night last Friday – and very few children were in the audience.
Yet, it’s easy to get caught up in the experience, thanks to artistic director Patrick Klein’s fast-paced direction and colorfully designed set including neon lights and imaginatively shifting sets.
A diminutive Joe Galang is Spongebob who sports a wide-eyed wonderment about everything in the world around him. His best friend Patrick Star (a jovial Rocky James Conception) stops to chat with him as he awakens and walks to the Krusty Krab restaurant, where he works. Mr. Krabs (a bigger-than-life Zachary Vaughn-Munck) wears gigantic red boxing gloves and reminds his young daughter, Pearl (a delightful Gillian Ortega) that someday she’ll own the restaurant.
Pearl, of course, has other ideas and when Spongebob tells Krusty that he’d like one day to be the manager, Krusty laughs him off, telling him he’s just a simple sponge.
Suddenly a violent tremor rocks the entire town. After the tremor, a news report says the gigantic volcano, Mount Humongous, will soon erupt and likely will disgorge hot lava all over the area, destroying Bikini Bottom.
Many townspeople want to leave, but SpongeBob enlists his friends Patrick and Sandy Cheeks (a sensational Solana Husband) to join him, climb up the volcano to stop it from erupting.
And that’s only Act 1!
Of course, there’s always an evil villain – here it’s Sheldon Plankton (played by Michael Jackson-lookalike Nico Jaochico) and his tiny wife Karen the Computer (Kristy Aquino). But they’ll get their comeuppance, right?
One more actor deserves mention: Andrew Cope as Squidward Q. Tenacles. It certainly can’t be easy to walk around -– and even dance –- when you have four legs!
Music director Richard Hall and his keyboard are onstage while his 11-piece orchestra is hidden under a small opening at the center front of the stage, an opening that frequently becomes part of the set.
There’s a lot of enjoy here: Klein’s set is terrific, Stacey Reed’s choreography is fun, Edward Hunter’s lighting is spot on, Raissa Marchetti-Kozlov’s costumes, wigs and makeup are creatively outlandish . So: Even if you know nothing about SpongeBob, you’ll still find much to enjoy.
Aisle Seat Executive Reviewer Joanne Engelhardt is a Peninsula theatre writer and critic. She is a voting member of the SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC). Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
|The SpongeBob Musical
|Based on series by -
Book by -
|Palo Alto Players
|Thru May 14th
|1305 Middlefield Road Palo Alto, CA 94301
|Max in each category is 5/5
|Aisle Seat Review PICK!