By Mark Dreisonstok
As we find ourselves in summer, why not take a maritime holiday to a lagoon and meet new aquatic friends? One need only to travel to Bikini Bottom where “the sun rises on a new beautiful day,” to quote Spongebob, the hero of Toby’s Dinner and Show’s production of “The Spongebob Musical,” running through July 31.
For those new to Spongebob (we suspect your children will not be), Spongebob (Kyle Dalsimer) is an anthropomorphic sponge living beneath the sea. He has many fast friends, such as Patrick Star (DeCarlo Raspberry) and Sandy Cheeks (Janine Sunday), in addition to his boss Mr. Eugene H. Krabs (Jeffrey Shankle), owner of the Krusty Krab Restaurant.
Such is the material of the “Spongebob Squarepants” show on cable television’s Nickelodeon. Attractive tunes have been added, turning this into an extended story of Spongebob and his friends’ effort to save their underwater town from volcanic destruction.
Two of the stars of the show have strong connections to our area. Annandale resident Kyle Dalsimer, who plays Spongebob with enthusiasm and gusto, is a graduate of Annandale High School. He is soon to go from Columbia, Maryland, to New York’s Columbia University to study theatre.
He has an excellent duet with Patrick Star (DeCarlo Raspberry) in “(I Guess I) Miss You.” The two actors have excellent chemistry which reinforces their characters’ friendship based on simplicity and valuing life’s simplest pleasures.
DeCarlo Raspberry, who plays Patrick Star, has a local connection in his increasing presence in the coterie of Falls Church’s Creative Cauldron. Mr. Raspberry made his Cauldron debut in “Girls of Madison Street”(written and directed by Iyona Blake) this past spring, and he informs the Falls Church News-Press that he is looking forward to returning to star in his solo performance “Love is the Key” on August 19, his part of Creative Cauldron’s weekend summer cabaret series.
Now, however, DeCarlo is busy with The Spongebob Musical. Indeed, when he dons the cape of the Super Star Savior in this production, he does so with aplomb, forcing us to realize there might be a lot more to the Patrick Star character than meets the eye!
Characters are represented in riotously varied, but attractive, costumes. A yellow-costumed character with a feathered hat holds a plate full of Krabby Patties. Jordan Stocksdale turns in an excellent performance as Patchy the Pirate in the sea-chanty-like “Poor Pirates,” accompanied by a band of pirates wearing pirate costumes and hoisting a skulled pirate flag.
The show’s choreography by David Singleton is stunning as Toby’s fits Spongebob into its theatre in the round. The sets are beautiful, evoking starfish and other aquatic creatures in neon. Equally good are the cast members and their wonderful voices. Of particular note is Jordyn Taylor who, as Mr. Krabs’ daughter, Pearl, sings powerfully in “Daddy Knows Best.”
Squidward Q. Tentacles is portrayed by a flamboyant Darren McDonnell. Squidward’s “I’m (Not) a Loser” with pink sea anemones tap dancing will interest Broadway enthusiasts, showing there is something in the show for everyone. Although Squidward is not necessarily a likable character, he is a complex personality who hopes to achieve his dreams of becoming a stage performer. Toby’s production brings this out in full force.
Is the show of interest only to children? Not at all! Wordplay abounds, for instance, and aficionados of Broadway shows will delight in pastiches of “Cabaret’s” “Money, Money” in Mr. Krabs’ “The Money Song,”
“Jesus Christ Superstar” in “Super Sea-Star Savior” (supplemented with silver-costumed singing and dancing sardines) and a Broadway chorus line in Squidward’s “I am (Not) a Loser.”
There are strains of gospel and twangs of Hawaiian steel guitars as well. There is even a reference to the operatic “Figaro! Figaro!” from Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville,” channeling a parody in another children’s cartoon, Bugs Bunny. A dance reminiscent of “A Chorus Line” occurs as Karen the Computer (Amanda Kaplan) and Sheldon Plankton (Joey Ellinghaus) decide which song routine to use to hypnotize residents of Bikini Bottom. (At one point, Karen says “I love it when you alliterate!” to the scheming Plankton.)
Patrons should remember that Toby’s is a buffet-style dinner theatre, and even here we are reminded of the show’s fun themes and alliteration as buffet offerings are labeled: Mr. Krab’s Korn, Patchy the Pirate’s Potatoes, Gary’s Gumbo (no snails!) and Bikini Bottom BBQ Ribs.
While the orchestra is mostly unseen, percussionist/sound-effects expert Catina McLagan is on-stage to supply the “meow” of Gary the Snail and the rubbery squish of Squidward’s tentacle legs as he walks.
Props include pink lanterns lit up with pink lights to represent stylized jellyfish, looking almost like something from Japanese kabuki theatre.
These, as well as bubbles floating down to the audience and colossal crimson beach balls tumbling as boulders, are all part of the extravaganza aspect of Spongebob. One is amazed at what can be achieved by director Mark Minnick in a minimalist theatre in the round, even as the central character is clearly square!
Toby’s has several special July Saturday matinee performances of “The Spongebob Musical’’ at a time when many parents look for activities for their children.
Such a venue might remind parents of Saturday morning cartoons or Saturday matinees at the movies in their youth. For more information, please visit tobysdinnertheatre.com.