Soak It In

SpongeBob the Musical Comes To Shaker this Week


Alyson Garfield

Shaker Theater Arts Department has transformed the large auditorium into their “SpongeBob” set

This year’s spring musical will probe the underwater depths of a beloved cartoon.

The SpongeBob Musical is a musical spin on the original cartoon series that debuted on Nickelodeon in 1999. The show revolves around SpongeBob SquarePants, who lives in Bikini Bottom with his nautical friends: Patrick the Starfish, Squidward the Squid, Sandy the Squirrel and his boss at the Krusty Krab, Mr. Krabs.

Theater Arts Chairman Scott Sumerak chose the musical. “This show, we decided, ‘Let’s do something that will really get the show noticed by the community,’” Sumerak said. 

Senior El Szalay, “SpongeBob” actor, was surprised by the decision. They have participated in New Stages, an annual production of student-authored and produced plays, and all but one production during their time at the high school. “Sumerak? SpongeBob? That doesn’t seem correct to me. Like, I’ve known him for long enough – he is very anti-[cartoon] musical,” said Szalay, a veteran of Junior Ensemble, Acting and Stagecraft classes. 

“He really doesn’t wanna do ‘Little Mermaid’ or ‘Beauty and the Beast’ because everyone does it, so I thought he would take the same approach for ‘SpongeBob’,” they said. 

A big part of any musical is the stage crew, which builds the set and ensures that everything is ready for the performance.  

Senior Rebecca Huang, costume designer, explained what a normal day would look like in costuming. “So we work in, like, kind of a team of designing, pulling costumes, fitting them, and then mending any other things because a lot of the clothes down there are really old,” Huang said in an interview alongside fellow costume designers Beatrice Augustine and Oli Graves. 

But there are challenges in making costumes, especially when it comes to SpongeBob and his friends. For example, “making them recognizable without literally putting them in a piece of coral because you need to keep the color palette recognizable,” Huang said. “You need to keep it recognizable to that character’s personality and you need to keep it, obviously, fitting the person. You can’t make it too obvious because this musical is a little bit abstracted from the show because of copyright reasons.”

Shaker is a part of Dazzle, a theater program for Northeast Ohio schools, that produces a yearly award show in which independent judges attend productions from each school, give feedback and assign scores to determine nominees and awards in 12 different categories.

“We are the only SpongeBob [production] in the 33 schools in Northeast Ohio that are a part of this program,” Sumerak said. 

Senior Actors Noah Fahy (Plankton) and Spencer Payton (Mr. Krabs) described their experiences before tryouts. 

“I tried out on a whim because I was sick. My nose was all stuffy, and I barely had anything prepared. I did it the night before and somehow got a principal part,” Fahy said. 

“I’ve done a few auditions before this, and the thing that I was most worried about was picking a song that fit my vocal range,” Payton said. 

Dennis Brown, a senior Instrumental Ensemble member, plays clarinet and bass clarinet in the “SpongeBob” pit. “In my book there’s a cacophony of instruments: There’s oboe, tenor sax and then there’s clarinet, bass clarinet,” Brown said. 

Fahy offered a message for aspiring actors. “The theater is a safe space for everyone, and through my experiences, I would recommend for anyone to try out,” he said. “It’s such a great experience. You meet so many cool people – memories that last a lifetime, friends that last a lifetime – and just getting the opportunity to be on stage and say, ‘I did that.’” 

The SpongeBob Musical premieres March 16 at 7 p.m. in the Shaker Heights High School Large Auditorium. Additional performances will occur March 17 at 7 p.m. and March 18 at 2 p.m. Purchase tickets at or at the door. Students and senior tickets are $7, and adult tickets are $12.

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