“Spongebob the Musical” reflects on present-day politics

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“Spongebob the Musical” reflects on present-day politics

"Spongebob the Musical" featured lighthearted humor and portrayed current national issues, spreading political awareness to a younger audience.

NINA ROGERS/SAGAMORE STAFF

"Spongebob the Musical" featured lighthearted humor and portrayed current national issues, spreading political awareness to a younger audience.

NINA ROGERS/SAGAMORE STAFF

NINA ROGERS/SAGAMORE STAFF

"Spongebob the Musical" featured lighthearted humor and portrayed current national issues, spreading political awareness to a younger audience.

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“Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?” If you don’t know the answer to that question and don’t subsequently yell it over-enthusiastically when asked, are you really a member of Generation Z?
Set along the streets of Bikini Bottom, “The Spongebob Musical,” based on the book by Kyle Jarrow and the characters of Stephen Hillenburg, transports audiences into the life of the titular sponge as he attempts to save Bikini Bottom from total destruction. But mixed beneath the colorful sets, eccentric costumes and the occasional “meow” from Gary the Snail, “The Spongebob Musical” addresses current issues like xenophobia, authoritarian governments and mob mentality all while maintaining the hyper-enthusiasm that is associated with the world of Spongebob Squarepants.
The show begins with Spongebob (Lorenzo Pugliese) explaining just how perfect Bikini Bottom can be through song, introducing the audience to Patrick Star (Beau Bradshaw), Sandy Cheeks (Daria Pilar Redus) and crowd favorite, Squidward Q. Tentacles (Cody Cooley). The decision to simply have the actors dress similarly to their characters but not wear full costumes made the show incredibly enjoyable and prevented it from feeling like a gimmick.
Halfway through the opening song, the stage goes red and tremors shake the ground. Audiences learn that nearby volcano Mount Humongus is expected to erupt the next day. The townspeople decide that they must abandon Bikini Bottom after a persuasive rap number performed by Sheldon Plankton (Tristan Mcintyre), but Spongebob devises a plan with Sandy to prevent the eruption from destroying their home.
All of that sounds like what you would expect from a musical about Spongebob, but sprinkled in with all of the musical numbers, the show is able to talk about complex and serious issues that the country is facing today.
When it is announced that the eruption of the volcano is imminent, the residents immediately look for someone to blame. Old Man Jenkins (Stephen C. Kallas) is quick to point out that Sandy isn’t like the rest of the residents. She’s a land mammal, and because of that difference she is subsequently blamed and chased around by an angry mob as signs reading “mammals go home” pop up around the stage.
This allusion to xenophobia in this country could not have come at a more timely moment. Sandy faces persecution that thousands are facing today simply because they were born somewhere else, despite the fact they might have passed the majority of their lives living in this country and have always called it home.
Throughout this crisis, the play follows the Mayor of Bikini Bottom (Helen Regula) who becomes increasingly dictatorial as the show progresses. When the eruption is first announced, she democratically allows townspeople to vote on the next course of action, but as the play continues, she consolidates more power to herself. She eventually recruits Larry the Lobster (Dorian O’Brien) as her bodyguard, armed with a jellyfish taser, having him attack anyone who disagrees with her.
Authoritarian leaders, like the Mayor, have become alarmingly more common in recent years. Though the Mayor was often used as comic relief, the reality that the world today has an increasing number of leaders like her is certainly problematic. The musical highlights this in a way understandable for children and promotes awareness of the topic among younger generations.
A final issue addressed through the musical centered around what people are willing to believe in times of crisis. When the Mayor first asks the townspeople for their opinions, Patrick proposes that everyone “close their eyes and hope everything will be okay.” This remark resonates with the sardines of Bikini Bottom and generates a cult following of Patrick. Robed in neon green dresses adorned with pink chest stars, the sardines follow Patrick around and hang on his every word, believing that he is the key to their salvation.
This hilarious decision to have Patrick be seen as a prophet alludes to an issue that many face during times of uncertainty. Too often people step back and simply follow the orders of others, counting on another person to make decisions for them. As Patrick realizes, you can’t believe everything you hear; sometimes, the person you’re listening to is just as unsure as you are.
While on the surface “The Spongebob Musical” seems like the last possible place that political and psychological issues would be addressed, the show is able to convey lessons on these topics while still encapsulating the joy and love that is known and adored about Spongebob.

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