Adrienne Reitsma as SpongeBob SquarePants (left) and Emily McNeil as Plankton rehearse a scene in The SpongeBob Musical presented by Chilliwack School of Performing Arts. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

Adrienne Reitsma as SpongeBob SquarePants (left) and Emily McNeil as Plankton rehearse a scene in The SpongeBob Musical presented by Chilliwack School of Performing Arts. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

Young Chilliwack actors dive into The SpongeBob Musical

Chilliwack School of Performing Arts brings underwater musical to Cultural Centre stage

An underwater town of sea creatures will come to life this month when Chilliwack School of Performing Arts (CSOPA) brings The SpongeBob Musical to the Chilliwack Cultural Centre stage.

“SpongeBob the musical is this subversively smart story buried in this world of silly, ridiculous joy,” says Lisa Braun, artistic director with CSOPA.

Silly indeed.

Underwater fire, anthropomorphic sea creatures and a squirrel who lives underwater are just some of the fun.

The musical is based on the animated TV series created by Stephen Hillenburg in 1996 that follows the lives of SpongeBob SquarePants (an ocean sponge), his best friend Patrick Star (a sea star), plus Sandy Cheeks (a squirrel in a diving suit) and other sea animals/organisms in the town of Bikini Bottom. The underwater city sits at the bottom of Bikini Atoll which, in real life, was a nuclear testing site in the ’40s and ’50s located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

From right, Adrienne Reitsma as SpongeBob SquarePants, Nicholas Paddon as Patrick Star, Lorelei Braun as Sandy Cheeks, and Emily McNeil as Plankton rehearse a scene in The SpongeBob Musical presented by Chilliwack School of Performing Arts. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

From right, Adrienne Reitsma as SpongeBob SquarePants, Nicholas Paddon as Patrick Star, Lorelei Braun as Sandy Cheeks, and Emily McNeil as Plankton rehearse a scene in The SpongeBob Musical presented by Chilliwack School of Performing Arts. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

In the musical, a completely submerged volcano is going to explode. SpongeBob and his pals must stop Mount Humongous from erupting and they have very little time to do it.

“It’s really about a community that comes together and saves their world,” Braun said.

She said the theatre production is quite timely as, coincidentally, the same actions happened right here in Chilliwack when the flooding hit and the community rallied to sandbag, move livestock, and help each other out during the natural disaster.

It’s a young cast of 18 kids and teens but their focus has been unwavering.

“Their ability to work in all of this has been absolutely breathtaking,” Braun said. “It’s a lot of work… we’re marrying very complicated technical things with their staging. This isn’t just a show done by kids, these guys are working at a pre-professional level and being trained by professional theatre artists.”

The kids will be playing actual humans, so they won’t be dressed up as sponges or sea stars, but they do have some fantastic props. Mount Humongous spins and moves as the characters try to climb it, and many other props have been repurposed from previous CSOPA shows like the chimney sweep from Mary Poppins and a pair of giant scissors from Matilda.

Emily McNeil as Plankton (centre, with eye patch) rehearses a scene in The SpongeBob Musical with other young actors presented by Chilliwack School of Performing Arts. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

Emily McNeil as Plankton (centre, with eye patch) rehearses a scene in The SpongeBob Musical with other young actors presented by Chilliwack School of Performing Arts. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

“The ocean, it is our dumping ground and the people of Bikini Bottom create their world from the things that we discard.”

She added that one of the goals was to put a “minimal impact” on the environment with their production of The SpongeBob Musical.

CSOPA received a $23,000 grant from the Province of B.C. to help with operating costs such as renting the stage at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre and paying for the rights to put on the show which cost thousands of dollars.

READ MORE: 9 Chilliwack festivals and events receive thousands in provincial recovery funding dollars

As a fan of SpongeBob the cartoon, Braun admits she wasn’t sure how well it would translate into a musical when she first saw it years ago in New York.

She was pleasantly surprised.

“My face literally hurt from smiling.”

She said it’s “silly” and “playful,” the writing is “intelligent” and it’s a musical for people of all ages.

SpongeBob SquarePants and Patrick Star are adult friends with a childlike view of the world, which is one thing they teach the students at CSOPA.

“You can grow up and be an adult and do all the adult things, but don’t lose your sense of play,” she said.

Emily McNeil is the character Plankton in The SpongeBob Musical presented by Chilliwack School of Performing Arts. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

Emily McNeil is the character Plankton in The SpongeBob Musical presented by Chilliwack School of Performing Arts. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

The pandemic has made it hard for the CSOPA students and staff to continue to create theatre over the last almost two years, but being able to see each other initially via Zoom and now in person has been a “beautiful focus in some really hard times.”

And even with the ever-changing public health restrictions, the show will go on.

“I joke that we’re flying the plane of Madagascar 2 through the centre of the Death Star, to land on that Cultural Centre stage. It’s still going to land, it’s going to be lovely, but it’s a little chaotic,” Braun said.

The SpongeBob Musical presented by Chilliwack School of Performing Arts runs from Jan. 12 to 23 at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre. Preview shows are Jan. 12 and 13 (all tickets $15). Regular show times are: Jan. 14 (7:30 p.m.), Jan. 15 (2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.), Jan. 16 (2 p.m.), Jan. 20 (7:30 p.m.), Jan. 21 (7:30 p.m.), Jan. 22 (2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.), and Jan. 23 (2 p.m.). Tickets are $24.50 for adults and $20. for students and seniors.

Tickets available at the Centre Box Office, online at www.chilliwackculturalcentre.ca, or by calling 604-391-SHOW(7469).

From left, Emily McNeil as Plankton, Lorelei Braun as Sandy Cheeks, Nicholas Paddon as Patrick Star and Adrienne Reitsma as SpongeBob SquarePants rehearse a scene in The SpongeBob Musical presented by Chilliwack School of Performing Arts. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

From left, Emily McNeil as Plankton, Lorelei Braun as Sandy Cheeks, Nicholas Paddon as Patrick Star and Adrienne Reitsma as SpongeBob SquarePants rehearse a scene in The SpongeBob Musical presented by Chilliwack School of Performing Arts. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)


 

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