A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The SpongeBob Musical: Live on Stage! is a broadcast performance of the Tony-nominated musical inspired by the popular animated series SpongeBob SquarePants. Viewers need not know the show or its characters ahead of time to follow the plot, but it's helpful and does contribute to a greater appreciation of the creativity involved in adapting a cartoon to a live stage production. The costumes, sets, and musical performances are impressive, and kids will like that SpongeBob's trademark silliness transfers well to the lead actor's work in this show. Some aspects of the story touch on issues like self-esteem and prejudice, always with positive results that make the characters happy. SpongeBob's brand of entertainment isn't for everyone, but those who watch will come away with a sense of wonder at the skill and artistic passion that's required for stage performances in general.
What's the story?
In THE SPONGEBOB MUSICAL: LIVE ON STAGE!, Bikini Bottom faces certain doom when Mt. Humongous threatens to erupt and bury the town in a volcanic lava flow. Resident scientist Sandy Cheeks (Christina Sajous) has an idea to combat the disaster, but scheming Sheldon Plankton (Wesley Taylor) looks to take advantage of the mayhem for his own gain. As Squidward Q. Tentacles (Gavin Lee) plans a benefit concert to fund the town's evacuation, residents turn against Sandy for being an outsider, and Patrick's (Danny Skinner) attention is diverted by some groupies, SpongeBob (Ethan Slater) is left alone to help his friend diffuse the threat and hopefully save their beloved underwater home.
Is it any good?
What this stage production offers in visual appeal offsets a story that sometimes gets lost in its own multiple directions. It begins with SpongeBob's appeals to his boss, Mr. Krabs (Brian Ray Norris), for management consideration at the Krusty Krab, then swerves unexpectedly into a volcanic devastation plot, drops in Sheldon's maniacal scheming to accelerate the disaster for his own gain and Squidward's efforts to stay relevant, distracts Patrick with a bizarre fan club of sardines, and winds up with an unexpected hero attempting to save the day. It's not a seamless story by any means, and it's often really silly, but it does entertain with quality musical performances and impressive visual effects.
Parents who (are willing to) watch alongside their kids may find The SpongeBob Musical: Live on Stage! a helpful means of introducing them to the concept of stage performances through characters they already know. This production does an excellent job recreating Bikini Bottom and its colorful inhabitants through costumes, creative stagecraft, and physical acting that truly impresses in parts. Slater is good in the lead role, and Sajous delights as Sandy, but Lee owns the stage as the multi-tentacled Squidward whenever he's around. Ultimately the story is secondary to the visual and musical components in this production that has potential to entertain a range of ages.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how this production uses costumes and props to recreate the scenes in the SpongeBob SquarePants TV series. How do certain colors and shapes suggest an underwater theme? What everyday items did you notice used in creative ways onstage?
How does Sandy respond to her neighbors' prejudice toward her? What inspires them to feel differently about her? Is it justified? Is prejudice something you notice in your everyday life?
Which characters are good models of self-esteem and confidence in The SpongeBob Musical: Live on Stage!? Whose actions reflect perseverance and determination? How do these character strengths contribute to a happy ending for everyone?
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