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Television: ‘The SpongeBob Musical’ perfectly melds the original with music

Among the dozens of questions Tina Landau posed to her creative team, and herself, once she was chosen to take ‘SpongeBob Squarepants” from the television screen to the Broadway stage, was what a full-length live show featuring the popular metazoan from Bikini Bottom could be about.

“’SpongeBob’ was a big hit for Nickelodeon,” Landau says in a telephone interview, “and episodes dealt with some interesting topics, but each cartoon lasted about 11 minutes, and we had to engage an audience for a couple of hours.”

Their conclusion? Nothing less than the end of life.

“It was the perfect subject,” Landau said. “’SpongeBob’ raises environmental issues, and what issue could be more fraught with tension that the end of existence as we know it?”

Asking questions and finding solutions was a constant part of the 10-year process that turned Nickelodeon’s signature program to “The SpongeBob Musical,” which begins two weeks of performances tomorrow night at Philadelphia’s Forrest Theatre.

Landau’s first questions were directed to Nickelodeon and the producers that invited her to pitch them her ideas for a show.

“I had specific things in mind, and I wanted to introduce them immediately so both the producers and I could see if we were right for each other and this venture,” Landau said.

“I wanted first to know whom the producers intended to reach. Was this to be a show directed at children, or was it to be broader based to include adults and attract people who might not be as familiar with SpongeBob as the Nickelodeon viewers?

“I also wanted to be sure there no concept of actors performing in big prosthetic costumes. I would not be interested in working on that kind of show.

“Steve Hillenburg (the SpongeBob creator who died in November 2018 but was alive during the entire cartoon-to-stage process) told me he thought of the show

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