My 5: Tony Nominee Kyle Jarrow’s Favorite Moments From ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’ Musical (Exclusive)
By Stacy Lambe
Opening in the fall of 2017, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical was perhaps the most unusual and surprising show to take over Broadway. But an original musical about the beloved Nickelodeon anthropomorphic sea sponge and his underwater friends of Bikini Bottom proved to be a hit with theater fans and critics alike, earning 12 Tony Award nominations including Best Musical. (The production is tied with Mean Girls for the most nominations this season.)
Written by Kyle Jarrow, a nominee for Best Book of a Musical, the show tells the story of SpongeBob SquarePants (brought to life by Ethan Slater -- also nominated), who teams up with his two friends -- Sandy Cheeks (Lilli Cooper) and Patrick Star (Danny Skinner) -- to save Bikini Bottom from a volcano eruption.
“It feels pretty much how you’d imagine -- exciting, humbling and a little bit surreal,” Jarrow tells ET about being nominated, especially alongside writers -- Tina Fey, Jennifer Lee and Itamar Moses -- who he admires so much.
“When you work so hard on a project, for so long, there are two things you hope for: One, to make something you think is good. Two, to have the world think it's good too. That second thing you really can't control. It's wonderful when it happens. And when it happens to this degree? There are few things that feel as good as that. It's a real testament to the talent, vision and hard work of the entire cast, crew and creative team.”
Ahead of the 72nd annual Tony Awards, which will be hosted by Josh Groban and Sara Bareilles at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on Sunday, June 10, Jarrow breaks down his favorite moments from the musical:
1. The end of the opening number
“At the end of the first song, ‘Bikini Bottom Day,’ the curtain lifts up to reveal this amazing cavalcade of sea creatures. The costumes (by David Zinn), the direction (by Tina Landau) and the choreography (by Chris Gattelli) all work perfectly together in that moment to make an eye-popping, energetic spectacle that gets me a little goose-bumpy every time.”
2. When Jai'Len Christine Li Josey sings in “Daddy Knows Best”
“Jai'Len Christine Li Josey, who plays Pearl, has one of the most amazing voices I have ever heard. When she starts belting at the end of ‘Daddy Knows Best,’ the audience always goes wild.”
3. "And I carry you in mine, Gary. Always."
“SpongeBob is about to head out on a dangerous mission, and he says goodbye to his pet snail, Gary, by promising he'll always carry him in his heart. I don't know why it's so funny, something about the context I think, but it's my favorite joke in the show. I also love the line because -- as weird as this sounds -- it was inspired by an E. E. Cummings poem that my wife and I included in our wedding vows. So, it's kind of an inside joke to her, too.”
4. When SpongeBob climbs the 18-foot ladder wall
“A giant, bright orange, 18-foot-diameter ladder wall lowers from the flies. Then Ethan Slater climbs it while singing upside down. Bada**.”
[An added tidbit: Slater cut out dairy, sugar and bread from his diet and spent four to five days a week at the gym for six months prior to opening to be able to maneuver in and out of the hoisted jungle gym set, while singing upside down. “That’s one of my favorite parts of the show,” he admits, partly because it was his idea and thought it would be funny. "’I don't know if funny's the right word for it, but it would be cool,” Slater recalls Landau saying of his suggestion. “I was like, ‘Great. Why don't we try that?’ And I've been doing it ever since.”]
5. The moment where the bubbles appear
“No spoilers, so I won't explain this is in too much detail, but there's a quiet moment near the end of the show where bubbles appear onstage. To me it's the emotional climax of the show, the moment where the show lands the message under all its fun spectacle -- which is that we need to come together, in the face of crises, not turn against each other.”