Have best day ever with 'SpongeBob' at The Empty Space

Nov. 30—If nautical nonsense be something you wish, then drop at the Space and flop like a fish. Well not really, but The Empty Space is embracing the animated fun with "The SpongeBob Musical," which opens Friday.

And just like the porous yellow sponge relies on his starfish BFF Patrick, so too does the show's director, Cory Geurtsen, credit a good friend with bringing this show to the theater.

"I chose this show based on a couple of things," she wrote in an email. "The first was the desire to do something fun, colorful, and innocent.

"Jesus Fidel was the second reason I wanted to do this show. He is my co-artistic director at The Empty Space, and I thought his artwork would be a great match for a vibrant show like 'The SpongeBob Musical.'"

The stage design and costumes are vibrant and whimsical, with black light and other effects livening up the presentation.

Geurtsen said, "The costumes have been a group effort! I started building some of the main characters over the summer. As we got closer to opening, Jesus amped up our look and made everything sing. The ensemble has contributed. It's been fun to bring it all together."

The director also credits her "very inventive, collaborative, and knowledgeable cast" with helping develop the staging.

On the music side, the show gets a boost from the songwriting talents of a number of well-known artists including David Bowie, Yolanda Adams, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Sara Bareilles, The Flaming Lips, Lady A, Cyndi Lauper, John Legend, Panic! At the Disco, Plain White T's, They Might Be Giants, T.I., Tom Kenny and Andy Paley.

Based on the popular Nickelodeon animated series "SpongeBob SquarePants," the musical finds the residents of Bikini Bottom at a crossroads as the erupting volcano Mount Humongous threatens the town.

While married villains Plankton (Kara Coughenour) and Karen the Computer (Guinevere PH Dethlefson) try to trick people for their own gain, SpongeBob (Jesse Magdaleno) enlists Sandy Cheeks (Ava Briscoe) and Patrick (Justin Thompson) to help save the town.

Patrick is distracted by cultist sardines as restaurateur Mr. Krabs (Nolan Blake Long) looks to make a quick buck with an "apocalypse sale" much to the dismay of his daughter, Pearl (Kelsey Morrow).

Guertsen said the show was dreamt up during the isolation of the pandemic and is presented as a testament to the human spirit.

She wrote, "Humankind has been through it, have we not? The play highlights honor in the face of adversity. Not only that, it encourages us to find joy in times of tribulation.

"There are many messages in the show. I originally thought I was going to pick up a play about a silly cartoon, but it is so much more."

Sunken Ship Holiday Boutique

Accompanying the musical will be the theater's holiday boutique that this year has been christened the Sunken Ship.

Fidel, along with the theater's financial director and fellow creative Kristina Saldaña, created and thrifted many unique items along with sourcing goods from other local artists.

"This year we have a large aquatic theme for our boutique to go hand in hand with SpongeBob," Saldaña wrote in an email. "Tons of jewelry, purses, candy, stocking stuffers, vintage items, and more will be available starting at only $2.

The pair also curated "awesome SpongeBob stocking stuffers" for kids with play packs, keychains, pineapple drink cups with candy and more. And, of course, Christmas items will also be for sale.

Geursten said the theater offers a one-stop source of all-ages fun "There is a gift boutique, so you can knock out some shopping. You can bring the whole family, which is nice when you have guests and you're looking for something cool to do. We can all use a tropical escape during the holiday rush."

The musical will be the last show at the theater's current space on Oak Street. An ambitious capital campaign, titled Act II, was launched to raise $20,000 for The Empty Space's move to a new location in southwest Bakersfield.

Funds raised from the show's VIP seating ($50, which includes a front-row seat, Bikini Bottomless bellinis, snacks and party favors) will go directly to the campaign.

"We are so excited for Act II," Saldaña wrote. "We're slowly moving our stuff in, with the big push coming at the end of December. We're working hard on our fundraising efforts and will be having a kick-off party on Jan. 7. More information on that is coming very soon!"

Stefani Dias can be reached at 661-395-7488. Follow her on Twitter at @realstefanidias.