Have F.U.N. and Save the Day the SpongeBob Way

Sometimes, the Broward Center features a double-header of entertainment: one show coming from a national touring cast through Broadway; one coming from our very own local company right in South Florida. To close out its 2023-24 season, Slow Burn Theatre Company, based out of Ft. Lauderdale and winner of the Bill von Maurer Award for Theatrical Excellence at the Carbonell Awards, is currently premiering The SpongeBob Musical until this Sunday, June 23. What better way to beat the heat than to splash down in Bikini Bottom?

Last year, before this current season, Director Patrick Fitzwater announced that this season would feature musicals for kids and a younger generation, in order to inspire the next generation of theater-goers, and as someone who has seen all but one of Slow Burn’s productions this lineup, I can bear witness and say that this has been true. With musicals both from The Little Mermaid and The SpongeBob Musical for the youngest patrons, The Prom and Sister Act for teenagers, the magic of theater and storytelling reached adults with Into The Woods. For this, I say “Bravo, Slow Burn.” You are giving the community something to cherish and anticipate with their families.

The SpongeBob Musical – Anthony Llerandi – photo by Larry Marano

What I first realized upon entering the Amaturo Theater, which may be my favorite performing arts venue in the South Florida area, being so intimate yet grand, is that Slow Burn has repurposed a LED archway from promtime to their rendition of Bikini Bottom. In fact, I would consider myself a bit of an expert in nautical happenings, growing up on the yellow sponge myself. The stylistic choices of having this entirely underwater, yet having them walk around, unlike their Mermaid production was an interesting deviation. The blurred line between what was human and what was aquatic made these artistic choices thought-provoking. Where were the heelys that mimicked underwater movement? I enjoyed their absence, but something felt slightly off.

The best part, however, was the cast. Patrick (Marc Christopher), Squidward (Brian Klimowski), Sandy (Dominique Kempf), Mr. Krabs (Ryan Crout), Plankton (Alexander Blanco), Karen the Computer (Lauren Horgan), Patchy the Pirate (Gianfranco Imbert), and so many others fit so cohesively, donning their characters with joy. It made the experience feel wholesome from the first moment to its last. This goes without mentioning the best performance of the night: Anthony Llerandi’s SpongeBob SquarePants. The kid is stellar, and he embraces the togetherness and pure nature of our favorite Sponge. In the face of the tragedy befalling Bikini Bottom, at no point does the audience think it’s all over, and I believe we have to thank Llerandi’s smile for that one.

The SpongeBob Musical – Marc Christopher & Company – photo by Larry Marano

Perhaps to draw in or familiarize the crowd with familiar cadences, a lot of the songs were recycled melodies and parodies of existing songs, featuring artists like John Legend and the Plain White Tees. These songs, to me, were not memorable enough to leave a positive impression musically like musical productions do. When I whistle the days following, I’m usually undulating between tunes, but only one stuck with me. “Bikini Bottom Day,” and all its reprises, was the best song sung. The songs, the parodies, couldn’t keep up with the one recurring song and suffered to spark the nostalgia from its original counterparts.

The SpongeBob Musical features a live foley artist and a maestro, and it’s the most exciting show you’ll see all summer. Come say bye to the 2023-24 season before it’s too late! Congratulations, once again, to Slow Burn.


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