March 12, 2022
By Sam Littlecreek of Winnetonka High School
Ah, the sea. So fascinating, so wonderful. Here, in this quiet corner of the ocean floor, is Bikini Bottom, a community bustling with life and friendship. One hour later — this just in, the world is going to end! Lee’s Summit West explores the panic of an apocalypse in the comedy “The SpongeBob Musical.”
Based on the fan-favorite Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants cartoon, this musical first premiered June 7th, 2016, at Chicago’s Oriental Theatre. Soon after that, it premiered on Broadway at the Palace Theatre and went on to win twelve awards, including Best Scenic Design of a Musical from the Tony Awards and Outstanding New Broadway Musical from the Outer Critics Circle Awards. Initially written by Kyle Jarrow, the plot follows Bikini Bottom residents as the threat of a volcano erupting causes all the fish to panic and argue about how to address the situation. SpongeBob, along with his friends Sandy Cheeks and Patrick Star, decides to make his own plans to save the town.
Lee’s Summit West’s Taylor Robinson portrays SpongeBob SquarePants with the iconic quirky character voice, capturing the audience from her first line. She uses incredible skill to stay consistent with vocals and exhibit cheery body language. Robinson plays her character with upbeat energy throughout the show by using cartoonish facial expressions and movement in her walk. Squidward Q. Tentacles, played by Aaron Harrel, has a striking stage presence while acting with his fellow actors. In the song, “I’m Not A Loser,” Harrel embodies his character while extravagantly dancing despite his challenging four-legged costume.
Other memorable characters also catch the audience’s attention with chemistry between each other, representing the theme of friendship central to the show. Samuel Matthews, playing the goofy, but dense, Patrick Star, uses strong vocal expressions during his song, “(I Guess I) Miss You,” to show his character’s insecurities. Grace Westbrook, playing the bold and determined Sandy Cheeks, stays consistent with her character’s accent and uses vocal expressions for comedic timing. Westbrook does a wonderful job showing her character’s inner struggle with being the only land mammal in Bikini Bottom and her mistrust towards the citizens of Bikini Bottom after they blame her for the volcano erupting. Though all of the actors hold consistent characterization during individual scenes, some actors struggle to maintain character during large ensemble scenes.
The set of this production captures the under-the-sea design by using abandoned fishing gear and various sea plants to decorate the landscape. Unique individual costumes each character wears and vibrant lighting choices help the characters pop against the background, making evident and intentional collaboration between set, costume, and lighting crews.
While “The SpongeBob Musical” takes many audience members back to their childhood memories, the show also reflects how friendship and trust can still persevere even during a crisis. By just believing in yourself, nothing is impossible when you have the help of true friends, and the actors of Lee’s Summit West prove this in their not-so-quiet corner of the sea.
The Cappies is a writing and awards program that trains high school theatre and journalism students to be expert writers, critical thinkers, and leaders. Student critics vie to be published in local media outlets by attending productions at other schools and writing critical reviews. For more information visit cappies.com.