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NPSS returns to the sea, and the stage this weekend

Musical theatre students at North Peace Secondary make their much-anticipated return to the stage this weekend with a two-week run of The SpongeBob Musical.
North Peace Secondary students Austin Henschke, Max Morrow, Anneke Johnson, and Kaela Rauscher take a break during rehearsals of this year's SpongeBob Musical, Dec. 1, 2021.

Musical theatre students at North Peace Secondary make their much-anticipated return to the stage this weekend with a two-week run of The SpongeBob Musical.

The Broadway rendition of the popular cartoon will be their first time back to public performances since 2019’s Grease and since the Covid pandemic began. 

The story follows the eponymous SpongeBob SquarePants and his friends as they race up the volcano Mount Humongous to stop it from exploding and destroying their undersea world of Bikini Bottom — all with pop, rock, ballad, and hip hop dance numbers throughout, written by the likes of Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Cyndi Lauper, John Legend, and David Bowie.

“The musical is super high energy, it’s super fun, and there’s a lot of goofy moments. I think it’s great for parents and kids, or anyone. There’s a lot for everyone in the show,” says Grade 12 student Max Morrow, who plays who plays SpongeBob's best friend, Patrick, a pink starfish dressed in tropical trunks.

But there’s deep meaning throughout the tongue-in-cheek comedy too, with compelling themes of tribalism, racism, inclusion, says Grade 12 student Austin Henschke.

“I really like the story. There’s beats of comedy in serious moments but it doesn’t break the tension or anything,” says Henschke, who plays the tentacled tap-dancing octopus Squidward. “It’s definitely not what you’d expect and you get more than you bargained for probably.”

In all, 65 students are involved in this year’s production, both on stage and backstage, under teacher and director Emry Mika. The cast and crew have been rehearsing since the start of the school year, and relaxed restrictions on live theatre events mean there are now extra tickets available for what had initially been a sold-out run.

The students have adjusted well through the pandemic, though haven’t been without their challenges, whether with online schooling in the first months of quarantine, or adjusting to a condensed quarter-mester system that meant longer class times when they eventually returned to the classroom.

“It was OK at first, when I thought it was only going to be a two-week thing,” says Grade 12 student Kaela Rauscher, who adds it’s been exciting to work and learn with her peers through the production. “Going back to school was really rough but it got better. It’s weird but I’ve adjusted.”

Grade 12 student Anneke Johnson performed in the school's production of Grease in 2019, and takes the leading role of SpongeBob this year.

“It’s definitely nice [to be back on stage]. I really like performing,” she says. 

“It’s really exciting. I’m having a super fun time doing this,” adds Morrow. “It’s been a great time working with everybody.”

The SpongeBob Musical runs from Friday, Dec. 3, to Saturday, Dec. 11, at the North Peace Cultural Centre.

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