YORK company Pick Me Up Theatre are to stage SpongeBob The Musical in the 2021 Christmas season at Theatre @41 Monkgate, York.
Director Robert Readman and musical director Sam Johnson will present the musical originally called SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical, from December 7 to 18.
“Pick Me Up are thrilled to have secured the rights to bring this intrepid, heroic sponge and his friends to York audiences when live theatre once more returns to the York stage,” says Robert.
“I was happily scrolling through the Concord Theatricals website late last year and there it was! I didn’t even know it had been released for performance. It took months to get permission from the rights holders though!
“Now, we’re looking forward to auditioning this summer for this joyful musical: a perfect choice to brighten everyone’s Christmas.”
Readman and Johnson will hold auditions at Theatre @41 Monkgate in July and August – exact dates to be confirmed – for performers aged 15 to 23 with one proviso. “If you are an actor-musician, you can be any age and we’d love you to audition for the Bikini Bottom Band,” says Sam.
Anyone interested is asked to email firstname.lastname@example.org for an audition form to provide contact details including a photo, age and performance history.
“We’re also looking for costume makers, hair designers and prop builders to magically create the world of SpongeBob SquarePants,” says Robert, who saw the Broadway show live-streamed on Nickelodeon.
Based on the animated Nickelodeon series created by Stephen Hillenburg, the American musical has a book by Kyle Jarrow, with original songs by Yolanda Adams; Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, of Aerosmith; Sara Bareilles; Jonathan Coulton; Alexander Ebert, of Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros; The Flaming Lips; Lady A; Cyndi Lauper; John Legend; Panic! At the Disco; Plain White T’s, and They Might Be Giants and T.I.
Songs by David Bowie, Tom Kenny and Andy Paley feature too, along with additional lyrics by Jonathan Coultonand additional music by Tom Kitt.
“The show is whacky and very colourful, with plenty of scope for lots of varied performers, but mainly it has a terrific score written especially by some of the foremost pop composers from the last two decades,” says Robert.
Fans of the 21-year-old cartoon will delight in the mostly humanoid re-creations of favourite characters, such as Squidward; Patrick; Eugene Krabs; his daughter Pearl, who is inexplicably a whale; Larry the Lobster; Sandy Cheeks, the squirrel in a diving suit, and Sheldon J. Plankton, who functions as the villain, Gary.
What distinguishes the musical from Nickelodeon TV series? “A live-action re-imagining takes the cartoon into new territory, so it’s not slavishly copying the original but transforming it into a unique stage show for all the family,” says Robert.
“Plenty of crabbie laughs, lots of squid dancing, delicious pineapple ballads: what more could you ask than to be at the bottom of the sea for Christmas?!”
In 2020, the Coronavirus pandemic put paid to no fewer than four Pick Me Up Theatre shows, the first three at the John Cooper Studio, Theatre @41 Monkgate: Stephen Sondheim 90: A Birthday Concert on March 22; The Pirates Of Penzance, the company’s first foray into the topsy-turvy world, April 17 to 25, and Alan Combes and Steve Cassidy’s musical drama Black Potatoes, September 18 to 26.
The fourth, the American musical 42nd Street, should have run at the Grand Opera House from November 6 to 14.
In the absence of being able to stage shows, Robert has nevertheless kept himself busy. “I have so loved the break, allowing me to catch up on decorating, extending the garden, eBaying props and costumes,” he says.
“I know it’s been hard for so many people, but I just thought it was a really great chance to take stock of life – theatre is only a small part of mine – and just remain as positive as possible. I still haven’t got around to tidying the insides of the sheds though…maybe next week??”
Those sheds, should you be wondering, are the former chicken shed warehouse at Bubwith that houses all manner of theatrical costumes, props and much more besides.
Maybe the tidying can wait; the return to working on shows beckons, and come December, SpongeBob The Musical will be making its York debut.
“Why should people see this musical? Because everyone wants to live in Bikini Bottom and this is your chance!” says Robert.
“Or, as Patchy the Pirate says: ‘This is one under-the-sea spectacular that you don’t want to miss’.”