When was the last time you encountered someone without guile or malice, who wears their heart on their sleeve, has no agenda other than to be their best self possible, and to see that in all others? Gotta be a fictional character, right?
Meet SpongeBob SquarePants (the agile and endearing Lorenzo Pugliese), starring in “The SpongeBob Musical” at the Golden Gate Theatre. Meet him, that is, if you have managed to avoid 12 seasons of the hit animated series on Nickelodeon, two feature films (with another on the way), and a $13 billion merchandising stream.
With that much juice, it seemed inevitable that if you squeezed the plucky sponge hard enough, he would sing.
What was surprising was the mosh pit of over a dozen name musicians who convened for the score, including David Bowie, Brian Eno, Lady Antebellum, John Legend, Steven Tyler, The Flaming Lips and Panic! at the Disco. Add in Cyndi Lauper (“Kinky Boots”) and Sara Bareilles (“Waitress”), who came with a bit of Broadway cred, and the results could have been a severely uneven amalgamation of styles and tones.
Happily, the songs fit their characters and the whole just hums along equal to the sum of its parts as musical theater. It’s not Sondheim, but not everything needs to be. Sometimes squids just wanna have fun.
The production on tour is a little scaled back from Broadway in terms of physical scope, but in all other ways it’s the same neon bright, wide-eyed, super silly, groan-inducing fun, and too much is just not enough.
“Kiss your Bikini Bottom goodbye!” exclaims the Plankton (Tristan McIntyre), the micro-menace who schemes to hypnotize the residents of the town at the bottom on the sea into preferring the cuisine of his restaurant, The Chum Bucket, over the Krabby Patty burgers of his competitor.
His threat will, naturally, be moot if the imminent earthquake and lava flow are not averted by our magical-thinking hero and his trusty pals Sandy Cheeks (Daria Pilar Redus), a karate-kickin’ science squirrel and Patrick Star (Beau Bradshaw), a vermilion-hued, intellectually challenged starfish.
They join a motley crew of sardines, sperm whales and snails that meow; and the enviously agile, extremely energetic and wildly talented ensemble onstage is all in for the adventure with rampantly infectious abandon. (Special applause for Cody Cooley as the miserably misunderstood multi-limbed Squidward, and the powerful pipes of Méami Maszewski as Pearl Krabs.)
Director Tina Landau, her inspired design team and fearlessly open company have created a world where anything is possible, truth matters and friendship is forever.
Who wouldn’t want to save it and live there forever?
The SpongeBob Musical
Presented by Broadway SF
Where: Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor St., S.F.
When: 7 p.m. Feb. 13-14; 1:30 and 7 p.m. Feb. 15; 1 and 6:30 p.m. Feb. 16
Tickets: $76 to $256