It’s time for a trip to Bikini Bottom without straying far from home.
“The SpongeBob Musical” comes to town Nov. 19-24, 2019, as the next show in the Victoria Theatre Association’s Broadway series.
The colorful production, which boasts a Tony Award-winning set, includes original pop and rock songs by John Legend, Yolanda Adams, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Sara Bareilles, Jonathan Coulton, Cyndi Lauper, Alex Ebert of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, the Flaming Lips, Lady Antebellum, Plain White T’s, They Might Be Giants and T.I. There’s also a song by David Bowie with additional lyrics by Jonathan Coulton.
The musical is inspired by the TV show which has reigned as the No. 1 kids’ animated television series for the past 17 years. It’s seen in more than 208 countries and territories, translated into more than 55 languages, and averages more than 100 million viewers every quarter. It’s based on the adventures of an optimistic sponge and his undersea friends including Patrick, a starfish, and Squidward, an octopus.
Among SpongeBob’s local devotees are the McFarland family of Fairborn. Eleven-year-old Jack says he’s probably been enjoying SpongeBob since the age of 3. He remembers crawling in bed with his mom on Saturday mornings and watching the show.
“It’s just the concept of all of these undersea creatures owning a restaurant,” says Jack. “It’s so imaginative!” One of his favorite characters is Mr. Krabs, just because, he says, he likes crabs.
His mother, Meredith, says it was her sister and aunt who got her started. “My aunt is a ridiculous SpongeBob fan,” she says, adding that it’s the humor and interaction between the characters she finds most attractive. “It’s something I can watch with the kids and it’s very entertaining, not like other cartoons that drag. It’s very tongue-in-cheek and there’s a lot of understated humor so the adults can enjoy it, too.”
Cleveland native in starring role
The heroine of the musical is SpongeBob’s friend, Sandy Cheeks, played by Cleveland native and Otterbein University grad Daria Pilar Redus. When a volcano threatens to destroy Bikini Bottom, it’s Sandy who saves the day by inventing an “Erupter Interrupter.”
“Everyone has different ideas how to save the town, and Sandy brings science and logic into the equation to figure out how to save the day,” Redus says.
Though the musical is based on a children’s show, Redus believes it will appeal to adults as well. “It has a lot of mature messages about loyalty and community and forgiveness,” she says.
A case in point is one of her favorite songs, “Hero is My Middle Name,” sung by Sandy, SpongeBob and Patrick. “In that song, Sandy starts out defeated because she has just been outcast and ‘othered’ by the community,” Redus says.”But SpongeBob and Patrick come to cheer her up and remind her about how much of a loyal person she is and how they can use teamwork to save the day.”
Redus says the spectacle of this musical is a reason in itself to experience it. “It’s really visual — big and bold with colorful costumes and set pieces. The lighting design is spectacular.”
Landing the job
Long before she was cast as Sandy, Redus was a SpongeBob fan. “I have two brothers and our routine every morning was to wake up, grab our cereal and turn on Spongebob until our mom said it was enough,” she recalls. What she loved about the show were the shenanigans and the friendships. “It’s goofy, but every episode tells a story and there’s always music,” she says.
Redus began connecting with theater in the third grade when she appeared in her first show. Although she continued to act, it wasn’t until she was a senior in high school that it dawned on her she could go to college for acting. “That rocked my world, and I decided to give it a shot.”
After studying acting at Otterbein in Columbus, she headed for New York. Working for a casting office taught her some important lessons about the industry. Within four months of her first New York audition, she’d been cast in the leading role in the North American tour of SpongeBob. “Touring is awesome and exciting,” she says now. “We’re doing the same show but it’s always in a brand new city so it never gets stale. It keeps us on our toes.”
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