He’s ready: SpongeBob SquarePants, the massive Nickelodeon property with a fanbase that reaches well beyond its target kiddie demographic, will go from Bikini Bottom to Broadway in “The SpongeBob Musical,” premiering in Chicago in the summer of 2016 prior to a New York opening during the 2016-17 Broadway season.
Produced by Nickelodeon, the project has attracted a who’s who of contemporary music names to contribute original songs to the show, including Steven Tyler and Joe Perry (of Aerosmith), the Flaming Lips, John Legend, Lady Antebellum, Cyndi Lauper (already a Tony winner for “Kinky Boots”) and David Bowie.
The musical is co-conceived and directed by Tina Landau, the writer-director (and member of Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater) whose Broadway work has included “Superior Donuts” and “Bells Are Ringing.” The book is by Kyle Jarrow, who co-created “A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant” and has worked with Duncan Sheik on “Whisper House” and “Noir” (getting a showcase this fall as part of the National Alliance for Musical Theater’s 2015 festival).
Tom Kitt, the composer who won a Pulitzer for “Next to Normal,” serves as musical supervisor, working with a contributing group of well-known musicians that also includes Dirty Projectors, Panic! at the Disco, Plain White T’s, T.I., Jonathan Coulton and They Might Be Giants. Coulton, best known for the songs he composed for the “Portal” series of videogames, also pens additional lyrics.
The design team will include “Fun Home” alumnus David Zinn (sets and costumes), four-time Tony winner Kevin Adams (lights) and Peter Nigrini (sound).
Not much is known about the plot of the upcoming musical, except that in it SpongeBob, the chipper yellow fellow whose absurdist undersea adventures have been chronicled in the TV series “SpongeBob SquarePants” and in two feature films, will save the day.
“SpongeBob” seems a potentially good bet for Broadway, thanks to an internationally recognized, family-friendly brand and a four-quadrant demographic of enthusiasts that encompasses kids, their parents and stoners of all ages. The most recent feature film, “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water,” dominated the U.S. box office when it was released in February.
“The SpongeBob Musical” begins previews at Chicago’s Oriental Theater June 7, 2016, for a limited engagement that runs July 3. Casting, as well as Broadway dates and timeline, remain to be set.