In Case You Missed It: Sponge Bob Is Broadway-Bound With Some Pop Stars in Tow

News   In Case You Missed It: Sponge Bob Is Broadway-Bound With Some Pop Stars in Tow
 
The Broadway theatre community got a shock this past weekend when young actor Kyle Jean-Baptiste died suddenly after falling from a Brooklyn fire escape. He was 21.

The death of a young man is tragic enough, but Jean-Baptiste, who was starring in Les Misérables, held a special distinction on Broadway. He was not only the youngest performer to play the leading role of Jean Valjean, but also the first African-American to take on the part on a Broadway stage. He made his Broadway debut only six weeks ago.

By the week’s end, a scholarship had been created at Baldwin Wallace University to honor the actor. The scholarship fund has surpassed $130,000 according to a release from the school. A good chunk of that money likely came from Les Misérables producer Cameron Mackintosh, who made what was called an "extraordinary" gift through The Mackintosh Foundation, the philanthropic arm created by Mackintosh to promote and develop theatrical, musical and dramatic arts.

Representatives for Les Misérables confirmed a donation from the Mackintosh Foundation had been made, but declined to specify the sum.

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Who lives in a pineapple on the Broadway stage? After conquering television and film, SpongeBob SquarePants, the dim and eternally chipper underwater kitchen sponge, will now make his Broadway debut. Following the show’s engagement in Chicago, producers have announced, the musical will open on Broadway in the 2016-17 season.

Titled The SpongeBob Musical, the show will begin its tryout June 7, 2016, at Chicago's Oriental Theatre. The limited engagement ends July 3. It will then move on to Broadway at a date and theatre to be announced.

This will be Nickelodeon’s debut as a producer on a Broadway musical. The score will be a curious beast, made up of a mixture of classic and contemporary rock tunes. The full list of composers includes: Aerosmith, Cyndi Lauper, They Might Be Giants, Jonathan Coulton, Dirty Projectors, The Flaming Lips, John Legend, Lady Antebellum, Panic! At the Disco, Plain White T’s, T.I. and David Bowie. (If you can find a common musical thread there, please contact this writer.)

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The plot of the musical is described thus: "The end is near. Only one sponge can save the day. But he's going to need help from some of the greatest songwriters in rock and pop music history." (Oh, wait — so, there’s the common musical thread.)

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Earlier this year it was announced with much ballyhoo by producer Jordan Roth, of the Jujamcyn Theatres organization, that William Finn and James Lapine’s Tony-winning musical Falsettos would return to Broadway in spring 2016. Roth made it clear that the 1992 show was a favorite of his and that the revival was a personal project.

This week, it was announced, with considerably less ballyhoo, that Falsettos would not come to Broadway this spring. The show has now been pushed back to the 2016-17 season.

Stephen Bogardus, Barbara Walsh, Chip Zien, Jonathan Kaplan, Michael Rupert, Heather MacRae and Carolee Carmello in the original Broadway production of <i>Falsettos</i>
Stephen Bogardus, Barbara Walsh, Chip Zien, Jonathan Kaplan, Michael Rupert, Heather MacRae and Carolee Carmello in the original Broadway production of Falsettos Photo by Carol Rosegg

Production spokespersons declined to comment on the reason for the postponement, but The New York Post quoted unnamed production sources as saying, "Lapine couldn’t find the right mix of actors for this tightly knit ensemble show. There was also the sense that production would need a movie star to sell tickets — and movie stars who can sing Finn’s demanding songs."

With a budget pushing $5 million, Roth reportedly sought to bring the show in under the aegis of one of Broadway's not-for-profit theatres, including Roundabout Theatre Company, but was unable to strike a deal, according to the tabloid.

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The folks at The Dallas Theater Center began a-pickin’ and a-grinnin’ this week as the world premiere of Moonshine: That Hee Haw Musical begins previews Sept. 2 prior to an official opening Sept. 18. Performances will continue through Oct. 11.

The show is based on the long-running syndicated variety show "Hee Haw," which reveled in corny humor and country music. The show never had a plot, per se — just a string a recurring skits. The musical, however, will tell the story of Misty Mae (not to be confused with Daisy Mae), the ultimate hometown girl who heads out to follow her dreams in the big city (that is, Tampa).

The cast is led by Justin Guarini, Rose Hemingway, Ken Clark, Ryah Nixon, Rob Morrison, Kevin Cahoon and PJ Benjamin. The new musical comedy features music and lyrics Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally and a book by Robert Horn. Gary Griffin, a big name in Chicago who has directed on Broadway, helms the production.

In the oddest credit, the production has a set design by Mr. Posh himself, Tony winner John Lee Beatty. Beatty usually designs the sort of apartments, offices and homes where "Hee Haw" characters would be stopped at the door, or taken around to the service entrance.

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