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10 Things to Know about Selma Arts Center’s much anticipated ‘The SpongeBob Musical’

SpongeBob isn’t the type to oversleep – because every morning could be the beginning of the best day ever! – but he did get delayed in 2022. The “SpongeBob Musical” was all set to open on Jan. 21 at Selma Arts Center. For me, it certainly was one of my most anticipated theater openings of the year, and I was greatly disappointed when the Omicron variant shut it down.

Pictured above: Jonathan Padilla, Cady Mejias and Josh Plowman star in ‘The SpongeBob Musical.’ Photo: Kyle Lowe / Selma Arts Center

But Selma soldiered on, and SpongeBob, and his merry band of companions in the tight-net community (yes, that’s an ocean pun!) of Bikini Bottom, is finally here. The musical opens Friday, June 17, and plays three weekends through July 2.

Here are Ten Things to Know about this must-see production for area theater fans.

1.

Eleven of the original cast members are returning from the January production, including several of the leading players.

Veteran director Dominic Grijalva, who has put the shine on many superlative Selma productions, was happy to mix the old with the new.

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“Out of the 23 members of the cast, including on-stage actors, our three brand-new pit singers, and our incredible live foley artist, 11 of the original cast members returned for the remounting of this show,” he says. “We welcomed so many new faces this time around who were hungry, dedicated, and up to the gargantuan task of putting SpongeBob together. It has truly been a delight.”


2.

The pandemic was rough, no question.

Grijalva had to tell the cast to go home just before the first dress rehearsal. He never got to see them on stage in costume. And because not all the original cast members could return for the June production, there was a new crop of folks learning the show on a strict three-week rehearsal timeline. Add to that the enormous technical aspects of the show, and cast and crew had their work cut out for them.

“For all of these reasons and more, this has been the most challenging show I have ever directed,” Grijalva says. “But I’ve always loved a challenge.”


3.

“SpongeBob the Musical” might be based on a cartoon, but it isn’t just for kids. Period.

“Yes, there are sillier moments kids are sure to enjoy, but I truly believe this was written for the adults who grew up watching the cartoon as well as folks who are completely unfamiliar with it,” Grijalva says. “Because of that, it is very universal in its themes and structure.”

The major characters are there from the cartoon, of course, including Patrick Star, Sandy Cheeks the Squirrel, Squidward, Sheldon J. Plankton and more. But a full-length musical has a lot more time to develop its characters, take them on their journeys and show us their transformations.

The show “takes all of these characters and gives them dimension, stakes, and arcs that bloom so beautifully,” Grijalva says. “There’s nothing “kiddie” about that.”


4.

Actors play a bunch of sea creatures (plus a squirrel), but they aren’t buried in costumes.

Unlike such shows as “The Lion King” and “Beauty and the Beast,” which rely on substantial costumes and masks – so much so that it can be hard to perceive the human beneath – “The SpongeBob Musical” mostly uses accessories and colors to depict its underwater characters. The result is more chance for an emotional connection to the actors.


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5.

Jonathan Padilla returns as SpongeBob Squarepants, and it seems like perfect casting.

I knew this the moment I asked Padilla and co-star Cady Mejias, who portrays Sandy, to be guests on my CMAC talk show. Grijalva puts it best: “He brings such warmth and joy to this role that there is simply no way you can’t smile when he walks on stage.”

Here’s a clip from the CMAC appearance (interview begins at the 26:00 mark):


6.

Josh Plowman is an addition to the cast in the all-important role of Patrick Star.

The amiable starfish who serves as best friend and sidekick to SpongeBob – and becomes something of a cult hero in the musical.

“My inspiration for my take on Patrick Star comes largely from my neighbor and oldest friend,” Plowman says. “In our senior year of high school we were on Bullard’s improv team together, and he had perfected this amazingly focused but totally vacant stare coupled with a slight smile that could get laughs without him having to move a muscle. That expression became my springboard for capturing Patrick’s earnest cluelessness.”


7.

Sandy is from Texas. Cady Mejias listened to Holly Hunter and Matthew Connaughey to get the accent down.

She also undertook some significant karate research and watched movies like “Mortal Kombat” and “The Matrix.”

“Sandy is a really fun character, and I”m honored to be playing her,” she says.


8.

The music for “SpongeBob” is wonderfully eclectic, thanks to its all-star lineup of composers.

“The unique thing about this score is that so many pop-music greats supplied individual songs for it,” Grijalva says. “I’m talking Sara Bareilles, John Legend, Aerosmith, Panic! At the Disco, David Bowie, T-Pain, Lady A, and Yolanda Adams, just to name a few. How can it get any better than that!

His favorite song in the show is hard to pick because it changes daily.

“But my favorite song for today is ‘Super Sea Star Savior.’ The choreography, lights, projection, costumes, and talent in that scene all marry together to create this raucous, swirling visual feast that is truly delightful. I always have a gigantic smile on my face while watching it. And that is just ONE of the many, many catchy tunes featured in ‘SpongeBob.’ “


9.

The sound effects are live. One of the instruments is a jar of mayonnaise.

The on-stage foley artist, Adrian Oceguera, provides some ingenious accompaniment, giving the show that cartoon “zip” of crunches, whistles, squeaks and more. There are three on-stage singers as well: Jess Meredith, Aaron Pierce, and Anou Her.


10.

Production-wise, “SpongeBob” is a sea monster. Consider some of the numbers to know:

12 glow in the dark sponges
6 jellyfish umbrellas
19 assorted shiny objects
200 pieces of coral on the set
200 balloons lining the wings
12,000 feet of blue rain curtain material
300 light cues
1 jar of mayonnaise 
20 cellophane bubbles hung from the lighting rig
3 portable platforms and 2 staircases to make a volcano in act two
11 krabby patties
18 musical instruments played live by the cast
15 beachballs and kickballs
1 giant Karen the Computer prop
18 sea anemone puppets
2 clarinets
2 bubble bazookas
9 bubble guns
1 big-ass party of a show


 

Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

donaldfresnoarts@gmail.com

Comments (1)

  • Jackie Ryle

    Thank you, Donald, for another delight review. Makes me want to see this!

    reply

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