Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? If you’ve watched Nickelodeon for any period of time, you probably know this question — and the answer — by heart. From May 5-7, the Monaco high school theater program will bring the beloved cartoon to life with its production of “The Spongebob Squarepants Musical.”
“It’s our first musical since 2019, and I thought it would be an amazing show to do for recruiting,” says Robert Fuhrman, theater manager in Monaco. “Between the choir, the brass band and the theatre, we couldn’t do shows. We hope it’s something that will attract people.
The original Broadway production was nominated for 12 Tony Awards in 2018 and features music written by top artists like David Bowie, Panic at the Disco and Lady A. Featuring classic Spongebob characters like Squidward, Patrick Star and Mr. Krabs, the show follows the titular star as he – or in this case, she – attempts to save Bikini Bottom from an impending volcanic eruption.
“It’s definitely SpongeBob, but it’s a more human version,” says Lena Elliott, the Monegasque eldest in the role of SpongeBob. “We’re not dressed like bobbleheads at a theme park.”
There are four other seniors on the show – Marybeth Spadea plays Sandy Cheeks, Matthew Ryan plays Mr. Krabs, Temi Omatayo plays Patrick, and Autumn Papcynzki plays Pearl. These students were freshmen the last time Monaco staged a musical, so many of them are in leading roles for the first time.
“This is one of the first performances where I can really show my talents,” says Papcynzki, who will be attending Virginia Commonwealth University for musical theater in the fall. “In my other performances, I was overall. But in this one, I can sing the words and sing loud.
Veronica Vann, the assistant stage manager, is also feeling the pressure and prestige of a new position. “My previous position on the crew was in the spotlight,” she says. “Now I’m a director and I teach people how to direct things at the same time as I learn how to do it myself.”
This particular show is sort of a trial by fire. There are more than 100 accessories, almost 150 sound signals and 300 light signals. All of these numbers are ambitious for a high school production. Many of the show’s famous sound effects are also featured, such as Squidward’s squeaky tentacles.
“This show is tough on the technical team, because all the props are handcrafted,” says Furhmann. “Pam Connolly is our costume and prop designer, and it’s all made by students.
“Every song and every scene takes place in a different place, and there are 32 songs. There’s so much going on behind the scenes. It’s an incredibly difficult show to put together, but it’s also awesome, because it means that you can create and imagine.
Elliott says the play is generating great interest among his classmates. “It’s such a weird musical, so classmates are asking about it and getting excited,” she says.
Although this is the first musical, it is not the first post-2020 production in Monaco. In November 2021, the theater program presented “Charlotte’s Web,” a non-musical play that also featured masks and social distancing. “It’s the first warrantless show, where we can act like we did before the pandemic,” Fuhrman says. “It’s like it was in years past.”
The cast predicts an emotional opening night. “During dress rehearsal we bring it in, but not as much as we will on opening night,” says Papcynzki. “I think everyone is going to be excited.”
“I think it’s really cool to see that in just a few months, people you’ve never really seen in the hallway have become your best friends,” Omatayo says. “Theatre really brings people together.”
“Even during class, the first moment of returning to the theater was emotional,” says Vann. “It was like, wow – it’s nice to be back home.” ¦
“The Spongebob Squarepants Musical” takes the stage May 5-7 at Monacan High School, 1151 Smoketree Drive at 7 p.m. with a matinee at 2 p.m. May 7. Tickets are $10.