SpongeBob SquarePants’ Glittering, Inventive Set Design Wins Tony

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Glittering and inventive, a burst of pastels evoking its cartoon namesake, the set of SpongeBob SquarePants the Broadway Musical pumps riotous life into the critically acclaimed show. On Sunday evening, that backdrop, designed by Broadway veteran David Zinn, earned a Tony Award for Best Scenic Design of a Musical.

The set design, which The New York Times describes as “a bright, found-object aesthetic that mixes Pee-wee’s Playhouse, Etsy craft, classic MGM musicals and acid-house clubland,” marks Zinn’s second Tony (he earned top honors for Scenic Design of a Play in 2016 for his work on The Humans), and seventh nomination (he also earned a nomination for SpongeBob in this year’s costume design category).

The set bursts with an inventive array of found objects repurposed as SpongeBob’s undersea domain: pool noodles, floaty devices, shopping carts, umbrellas, surfboards. “In terms of influences, we referenced this sort of ’60s beach culture viewed through an ’80s sensibility,” Zinn told Time Out New York. “It was all about achieving beauty through a fun sensibility and simple materials.”

SpongeBob SquarePants, which earned a dozen total Tony nominations, is one of two current Broadway shows inspired by Viacom’s deep well of intellectual property. The other, Mean Girls, based on the 2004 Paramount Pictures film of the same name, earned 12 nominations. Both are an important part of Viacom’s deliberate strategic move into live events, where fans can connect with beloved characters in a new formats.

Both productions are ongoing in New York City. You can buy tickets to SpongeBob SquarePants at the Palace Theater here and to Mean Girls at the August Wilson Theater here.

SpongeBob SquarePants Follows Season 12 Renewal With Voyage to Broadway

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

The power of positive thinking has been working out pretty well lately for SpongeBob SquarePants. The eternal optimist will star in his third movie in 2019. Last month, Nickelodeon greenlit a 12th season, which will correspond with the show’s 20-year anniversary when it debuts in 2019. America’s favorite talking sponge continues to be the most popular cartoon on the block, scoring the top ratings slot among core kids demographics.

And now, there’s even more to celebrate:

The play – in which an unnamed savior rises to save Bikini Bottom from volcanic annihilation – moves east after a successful run in Chicago, landing at Broadway’s Palace Theatre, which sits just a couple blocks north of Viacom’s global headquarters in Times Square.

“We could not be more thrilled to bring Nickelodeon’s iconic SpongeBob SquarePants to the theater in an original musical conceived specifically for Broadway,” said Nickelodeon President Cyma Zarghami. “We are also incredibly honored to be in such a gorgeous house as The Palace, where audiences will be immersed in the fun and surprising world of Bikini Bottom.”

SpongeBob is pretty happy about it too:

via GIPHY

And so are the folks who watch Broadway for a living: “While we’ve been so excited about plenty of other great plays for kids, this one surely takes the cake,” writes Time Out New York’s Allie Early.

There’s a lot to be amped up about. The Chicago run was well-reviewed, with high praise for many of the disparate parts that seamlessly merge into a big-time stage production. Let’s take a look at a few highlights.

The story

SpongeBob has built a reputation as an all-ages crowd-pleaser, and the musical continues that tradition.

In his television review for Chicago local station WGN 9, Dean Richards observed, “Instead of kid-like dialogue,  the story is multi-layered for kids and adults. It all adds up to one of the most fun, well-produced, and best-acted shows Chicago has seen in a long time.”

And while the plot is relatively simple – a volcano is about to destroy their world, how do we save it? – the production’s subtext is ground in a greater, unnamed sophistication that addresses the issues of the larger troubled world we all actually inhabit.

Writing in the Chicago Sun-Times, Hedy Weiss noted, “Part allegory of the precarious world in which we all now dwell, and part satire on everything from the bureaucratic babble of modern-day politicians to the hunger for moneymaking, the bloated egos of pop music groups, messianic leaders and the eternal lure of stardom, the show is full of wildly energetic performers and playful, imaginative stagecraft that might best be described as one part lavish Dollar Store ingenuity, one part Cirque du Soleil and one part childlike invention.”

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