It premiered on June 7, 2016 and ran through July 10 at Chicago's Oriental Theatre. After that, it premiered on Broadway at the Palace Theatre. Previews began on November 6, 2017 and opening night was on December 4. The Broadway run of the show ended on September 16, 2018 The book is by Kyle Jarrow, with songs by various artists, and the Broadway production was co-conceived and directed by Tina Landau and choreographed by Christopher Gattelli.
Before the show begins, a pirate sits down on part of the stage as the audience is taking their seats. The pirate is revealed to be SpongeBob's number-one fan, Patchy, who has traveled from Encino, California to catch the premiere of SpongeBob's musical. Two actors dressed as security guards appear and tell Patchy to leave the stage, as the show is about to begin. Patchy objects, but the guards lead him out of the theater as Patchy claims that he is a victim of pirate discrimination sings the protest song "Yo Ho, We Won't Go." One of the security guards apologizes for the interruption, then tells the audience to enjoy the show.
SpongeBob SquarePants awakens and welcomes the day with his pet snail, Gary ("Bikini Bottom Day"). He greets various friends in his hometown of Bikini Bottom— including his best friend Patrick, his neighbor Squidward, and his friend Sandy Cheeks — as he walks to the Krusty Krab restaurant. At work, his boss Mr. Krabs tells his daughter Pearl that she will manage the restaurant one day. With Pearl uninterested, SpongeBob hints his desire of being the manager. Mr. Krabs laughs at the idea, telling SpongeBob he is "just a simple sponge"("Bikini Bottom Day (Reprise 1)"). Then, a violent tremor suddenly rocks the entire town.
A news report reveals that the tremor was caused by a nearby Mount Humongous, a volcano that will soon erupt ("No Control"). SpongeBob cheers up an upset Patrick by reiterating that they are best friends forever ("BFF"). With the town in a panic over the impending doom, married villains Plankton and Karen try to convince the citizens to enter an escape pod that ensures safety. But, the two have a secret scheme planned as they will hypnotize the citizens in the pod into liking the chum that they serve at their restaurant, the Chum Bucket ("When the Going Gets Tough"). The townspeople, unknowingly, support this idea and decide to hold a last-minute music concert to raise money. Squidward's idea of his one-man show is immediately shut down. Instead, Pearl suggests that the famous rock band, the Electric Skates, play at the concert. Everyone agrees and Squidward is named manager of the event.
SpongeBob, however, is against the idea of leaving town and believes the citizens should save Bikini Bottom. SpongeBob thinks back on Mr. Krabs' words from earlier and wonders if he could save the town ("Just a Simple Sponge"). He goes to Patrick and Sandy for help. Mr. Krabs sees the upcoming disaster as a money-making opportunity, holding an "apocalypse sale". Pearl worries about her father's greed, believing that it overshadows his care for her ("Daddy Knows Best").
Meanwhile, SpongeBob convinces Patrick and Sandy to team up, climb the volcano, and stop it from erupting with an invention Sandy will build. The friends are determined to succeed ("Hero Is My Middle Name"). Before they start their plan, a group of cultist sardines appear. They found wisdom in Patrick's thoughts at the town meeting and decide to make him their new leader ("Super Star Sea Savior"). Patrick likes the idea and decides to back out of SpongeBob's plan so that he can bask in self-glory, angering SpongeBob. The two fight and end their "BFF" status. After Patrick leaves, Sandy reminds SpongeBob that things are bound to be okay. The entire company reveals their personal thoughts and feelings about the impending disaster ("Tomorrow Is").
After an intermission, Patchy the Pirate again sneaks onstage. He tells the audience that pirates are persecuted by others because of stereotypes, and how people see them. He is joined by a group of pirates, and one baseball player (one of the Pittsburgh Pirates), for a song about how hard it is to be a pirate in today's world ("Poor Pirates"). Once again, security intervenes to chase Patchy and the others away, with Patchy vowing to return.
The second act officially begins with SpongeBob once again waking up, and greeting the day ("Bikini Bottom Day Reprise 2"). Today, however, is the day the volcano is expected to erupt, so it is not particularly a cheerful morning. As SpongeBob heads into town, he finds that the streets have fallen into anarchy and chaos, with the mayor appearing to employ a dictator-like rule over the people. Additionally, an angry mob, led by Old Man Jenkins, is searching for Sandy, as they blame her for the volcano (they are under the assumption that she knows much about volcanoes due to her scientific achievements). Sandy is able to hide from the angry mob, and when they are gone, she shows SpongeBob the device she has invented that will hopefully stop the eruption. It is a bomb-like device she calls the Eruptor Interrupter. They hope to successfully climb the volcano, throw it inside, and save the town. The two begin their journey up the mountain, and there are many signs warning them of danger. However, they both press on, not letting anything stand in their way.
Meanwhile, the Electric Skates rock band finally arrives. As their fans cheer them on, they perform their signature song ("Bikini Bottom Boogie") while skating around the stage. When they are done, Squidward asks if he may perform with them as an opening act. In return for a part, the band asks Squidward to get them an extremely long list of luxury items. Squidward is determined to find each item so that he can perform in front of all of Bikini Bottom. As for SpongeBob and Sandy, they are making their way up the mountain, but not without great difficulty. Sandy tries to lift their spirits by reminding them of what they have learned in karate class about never giving up, and does her best to keep their spirits up ("Chop to the Top"). When they stop to rest, SpongeBob cannot help but think of how he misses Patrick and wishes that he was there to help them. Down below in town, Patrick is finding life as a guru unexciting, and he misses SpongeBob as well ("(I Guess) I Miss You"). Patrick leaves his followers behind, rushing off to catch up with SpongeBob and Sandy.
Meanwhile, Squidward has succeeded in obtaining all but one of the items on the Electric Skates' list. Despite this impressive feat, the band goes back on their word and refuses to let him perform. Before leaving, the Electric Skates call Squidward a loser and decide not to perform at the concert. Now alone, Squidward insists that he is not a loser, as so many people seem to think. This brings about a fantasy sequence in which Squidward performs a show-stopping song and tap dance number with a back up chorus ("I'm Not a Loser").
Back on the mountain, SpongeBob and Sandy are experiencing even more difficulty as they get closer to the peak. At one point, the two friends find themselves separated when SpongeBob falls through a crack in the mountain. They reunite, but are threatened to be torn apart once again when SpongeBob starts to fall. In the nick of time, Patrick arrives wearing a jet pack (an invention of Sandy's), and saves his best friend from falling. The two renew their Best Friends Forever status, and the three continue to make their way up the mountain. When they finally reach the top of the volcano, neither Sandy nor Patrick can make it to the rim where they need to throw the device in to stop the eruption. They turn to SpongeBob, who doubts if he can help, since he doesn't have any special skills like his friends ("Just a Simple Sponge Reprise"). They remind him that it has been SpongeBob's cheerful determination and optimism that has gotten them this far, and that his purpose in the team is to keep morale high. With new determination, SpongeBob takes the Eruptor Interrupter and makes his way to the very rim, throwing it in. The volcano is not expected to erupt for another seven minutes, so they will have to wait until then to see if their plan worked. They head back down the mountain to tell their friends what has happened.
Back in Bikini Bottom, the entire city is in anarchy, with everyone turning against everyone else, blaming each another for what is about to happen. The band is gone, so there will be no concert and no vessel for which to escape. SpongeBob, Sandy and Patrick see the citizens' frantic panicking and try to calm everyone down. The three tell them that whatever happens, Bikini Bottom is their home, and they have each other. SpongeBob tries to lift everyone's spirits with his signature song ("Best Day Ever"), and it seems to work. Finally, the time has come for the volcano to erupt, and everyone braces for their deaths. The time passes without an eruption, signaling that the Eruptor Interrupter has worked. With Bikini Bottom safe, everyone decides that they should celebrate by having a new concert. Since there is no longer a band, they decide to make their own music. SpongeBob leads the entire cast in a rousing rendition of the show's main theme ("Bikini Bottom Day Reprise 3"). Even Patchy the Pirate joins in, as he descends from above on a rope, having finally managed to sneak into the show. After the cast takes their bows, they perform one last song ("SpongeBob SquarePants Theme Song") and everyone goes home for the evening.
NOTE: The second reprise of "Bikini Bottom Day" and the reprise of "(Just a) Simple Sponge" are only available as bonus tracks on the vinyl release of the cast album.
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The only three songs that existed prior to the musical were "No Control," "Best Day Ever," and the SpongeBob SquarePants theme song. Of these three, "No Control" is the only one to not only have had no relation to SpongeBob when first published, but is also the only song in the musical to predate the SpongeBob franchise itself, being initially released in 1995 on David Bowie's concept album 1. Outside.
When Perch Perkins reports on the citizens of Bikini Bottom leaving, on one of the TV monitors, a fiddler on the roof is seen, a reference to musical of the same name. Afterwards, the citizens sing "Bikini-tevka", in reference to "Anatevka" from the same musical.
The show contains several nods to fan favorite episodes:
At the top of the show, SpongeBob says, "Good morning, world! And all who inhabit it," like he does in Missing Identity.
Gary is portrayed as a prop on a skateboard, similar to the one he rides in Rock-a-Bye Bivalve.
Before "BFF", SpongeBob tells Patrick that they can pass the time using their "Imaaaaaaaginaaaaaations", complete with the rainbow hand gesture, like in Idiot Box.
When Patrick finds out he has attracted a cult following of sardines, he says, "The inner machinations of my mind are an enigma," which is a classic quote from The Secret Box.
After Patrick abandons SpongeBob and Sandy for his cult, SpongeBob and Patrick have an argument, culminating in SpongeBob calling Patrick "Pink!" and Patrick calling SpongeBob "Yellow!", like in The Fry Cook Games.
When Plankton's cover is blown, Mr. Krabs calls Plankton a (dolphin chirp), which is bad word number eleven in Sailor Mouth.
At the end, when several Bikini Bottomites remark the different instruments they can play, Patrick raises his hand and asks, "Is mayonnaise an instrument?" like in Band Geeks.
My leg!: is heard when the Electric Skates show Squidward their list. The list is so long it unravels and crashes into the orchestra pit, causing chaos among the musicians, one of whom spouts this classic sound bite.
In the original Chicago production, the French narrator was portrayed onstage by an actor while Gary's meows were portrayed by a prerecorded Tom Kenny. When the show moved to Broadway, the reverse happened: the French Narrator's lines were prerecorded by Kenny while an actor or actress provides Gary's meows.
In the Chicago production, Ethan Slater wore a yellow wig as SpongeBob. When it transferred to Broadway, his wig changed to a more natural red color. The Chicago production also had Ethan sport the same clothes SpongeBob wears in the cartoon with the addition of a yellow sweater vest to represent his square body, while the Broadway production has Ethan wear a yellow button down and longer pants, trading in his sweater vest for suspenders.
The Chicago production also has Patrick sporting his floral patterned shorts from the cartoon, but this was changed in the show's Broadway run.
Fred is shown in the Chicago production, appearing entirely different from his cartoon self. In the Broadway production, this character still stays but is now under the name "Buster Blue Tang".
In 2019 Kids' Choice Awards, some of the cast from this musical make a guest appearance by performing The Best Day Ever song and SpongeBob SquarePants Theme Song.
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., Domani & Lil'C