.Nautical Nonsense: ‘SpongeBob’ at SRJC

As anyone born in the last 40 years can say, Bikini Bottom is the home of SpongeBob SquarePants. It’s a place where bright colors and sublime silliness make real-world topics palatable for all ages. The Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC) theatre arts department has a production of The SpongeBob Musical running through Dec. 4.

It begins with SpongeBob (Samuel J. Gleason) bidding farewell to (an amazing) Gary the Snail and embarking on a typical “Bikini Bottom Day.” The audience meets various citizens through song before being interrupted by an earthquake. It turns out that the nearby Mount Humongous volcano is going to erupt at sunset the next day! 

Add into this an evil plot by Plankton (Calvin Sandeen, in an amusing Bond-villainesque performance) to hypnotize the whole town, an ineffectual mayor (Abrea Tillman), an opportunistic Mr. Krabs (Jace Hassler), a fear mongering reporter (August Perez), a fanatical squad of proselytizing sardines and Squidward’s need for stardom (a solid Colette Van Meter), and the stage is set for chaos. 

Can SpongeBob and Sandy (Phoebe Pruitt) save the town? Will Pearl (Sydnie Crumrine-Thomsen) get to see the Electric Skates? Will Patrick (Aidan Pryor) find more snacks? And will Patchy the Pirate (a standout performance from Anderson Templeton) get to meet his idol?

The predictable but satisfying plot is told through a song list that reads like a who’s who of musical legends. Songwriters include David Bowie and Cyndi Lauper, among others. Musical director Nate Riebli does an admirable job in conducting the award-winning score, but the quality of singing does not match its level. Notes were sour and choral harmony was hit and miss at the mid-week show I attended. But since this is a college program, one should not expect the consistency of a professional company. Students with class loads and a general disregard for sleep should be given a little leeway. 

While excellent set and costume design work by Peter Crompton and Colleen Scott Trivett were on display, the direction and staging seemed sloppy. Occasionally, the show hit (Squidward’s “I’m Not a Loser” was a highlight), but more often than not the pieces felt as if director Reed Martin had deemed them “good enough.” Two-and-a-half hours is a long time to watch “good enough.”

As colorful as it is, it’s unfortunate that the SRJC production of The SpongeBob Musical lacks the whimsy and precision the show deserved.

‘The SpongeBob Musical’ runs Thurs–Sun through Dec. 4 in Santa Rosa Junior College’s Burbank Auditorium Main Theatre, 1501 Mendocino Ave. Thurs–Sat, 7:30pm; Sat & Sun, 2pm. $5–$25. 707.527.4307. theatrearts.santarosa.edu.

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