SpongeBob SquarePants, directed by Tina Landau, will close on September 16, 2018 after disappointing box office and Tony Awards recognition.
Directed by Tina Landau, Book by Kyle Jarrow, and a Score by Diverse Musicians
On November 6, 2017, SpongeBob SquarePants began previews at the Palace Theatre, ahead of its opening night on December 4, 2017. The show entered the Broadway scene both splendidly and dubiously, with many Broadway fans skeptical of the worth of a show based on an animated sponge. Nevertheless, the approach was unique, and the reviews were generally positive. Conceived and directed by Tina Landau, the show has a book by Kyle Jarrow and a score by a wide array of popular musicians. These artists include Yolanda Adams, Steven Tyler & Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Sara Bareilles, Jonathan Coulton, Alex Ebert of Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, The Flaming Lips, Lady Antebellum, Cyndi Lauper, Rob Hyman, John Legend, Panic! At the Disco, Plain White T's, They Might Be Giants, T.I., and Domani and Lil' C. In addition, there are songs by David Bowie, Brian Eno, Tom Kenny and Andy Paley, with additional music, orchestrations, and arrangements by Tom Kitt, and additional lyrics by Jonathan Coulton. Upon the show’s opening, Ben Brantley from The New York Times praised Tina Landau as “just the person for the job, never betraying the tone of instructive anarchy.” Marilyn Stasio from Variety enjoyed the “psychedelically inspired version of the whimsical kiddie cartoon,” calling the stagecraft “three-dimensional” and “boldly theatrical.” David Rooney from The Hollywood Reporter called the show an “eye-popping, psychotropic…musical fantasia about friendship and community,” praising its “genuinely explosive moments.” Christian Lewis from the Huffington Post declared the show a “hit,” saying “you go in thinking it can’t possibly be good, but during the show you are swept up and captivated, you dance along, you root for your favorites, you laugh and you smile.”
Musical Received 12 Tony Nominations, But Just 1 Win
One of the biggest surprises of the Tony nominations this year was the fact that SpongeBob SquarePants tied with Mean Girls for the most nominations of any show: 12, including Best Musical. However, as the awards were announced one by one on June 10, 2018, it became clear that SpongeBob would not be winning the vast majority of the awards for which it was nominated. In the end, it won just one, that for Best Scenic Design of a Musical for David Zinn. Unfortunately, the box office was never as strong as the reviews, and although the numbers saw some increases in the weeks leading up to and following the Tony Awards, the show’s box office never took off. With a capitalization in the range of $18.35 million, the show is far from recoupment. Over the course of the run thus far, the average percentage reached of gross potential has been 55.74%. In the last reported week of box office figures, the week ending July 8, 2018, the show brought in $891,818, which represents 63.30% of its gross potential. With these numbers being so unpersuasive, the decision was made to close the show in the fall, with the final performance scheduled for September 16, 2018. Upon closing, it will have played 327 performances, in addition to 29 preview performances. Fortunately, this is not the end for the SpongeBob SquarePants musical. Nickelodeon, the lead producer, has announced that early next year, it will make the rights available to school and amateur productions. Given the show’s popularity with children, this should allow for another revenue stream for the Broadway production’s investors. In addition, a national tour will launch later next year. Details of this tour, including casting and exact dates, have yet to be announced.