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Bob Goepfert Reviews "The SpongeBob Musical" At Proctors

If nothing else, attending “The SpongeBob Musical,” which is at Proctors Theatre in Schenectady through Saturday, offered me some feelings of vindication.

Let me explain: Over the years, no matter how much they begged or cajoled, I avoided watching a single episode of the Nickelodeon television cartoon series with my grandchildren. I refused to go with them to any of SpongeBob films, and they knew better than to ask me to take them to the musical when it played on Broadway.

Seeing the show on Wednesday evening at Proctors proved I was right. The legendary depth of my crankiness would have hit a new low. I couldn’t love my grandchildren enough to pretend we had shared a wonderful experience.

But that’s me. I can understand children of a certain age having fun. This is a colorful production – the lights and set are eye-popping. The energy of the cast is boundless and the music is varied enough to please any taste.

But even with these virtues I have to wonder if 2 ½ hours to tell a fragile story - it has something to do about saving the under-the-water town of Bikini Bottom from a volcano erupting - wouldn’t bore even the most avid young fan.

Indeed, there are many good things in the production. I actually enjoyed the cleverly staged mountain climbing sequence. The ensemble scenes are fun and there are silly jokes for the young and some subtle humor for those a bit older. There’s a sensational tap number that lasts for about 8 minutes that is breathtaking. Performed by the tall and lanky Cody Coolie (who plays Squidward) the dance will remind old-timers of Tommy Tune.

Too, there are a number of terrific voices within the cast. They do justice to the songs written by Cyndi Lauper. John Legend, and Stephen Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith. There is the silly “Chop to the Top” by Lady Antibellum and “I’m Not a Loser,” by They Might Be Giants was made meaningful by the already mentioned tap number.

As shallow is the story, the musical uses the tale of friendship and heroic actions to teach some fine values – like believing in yourself, being a loyal friend, trusting in individuality and encouraging diversity.

However, even with all these positive assets, I was never interested in what was happening on stage. It was like watching a never-ending cartoon loop.

The young performers have talent but lack ownership of their characters. Granted the actors are playing one-dimensional characters, but they still deserve freshness. There is a lot of imitation going on onstage.

It’s early in the tour (its first week actually) and I suspect when the cast relaxes and gets comfortable, better things will happen with the show. My advice to the cast is listen to the morals within in the show. Have fun, trust yourself and others and believe in your individual talent.

The SpongeBob Musical continues at Proctor through Saturday. For tickets and schedule information call 518-346-6204 or go to proctors.org

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