Sound designer Walter Trarbach and Foley artist Mike Dobson tell us how they created the sound world for this unique musical adaptation of a hit cartoon.
It’s hard to believe that SpongeBob SquarePants has been bobbing up and down in Bikini Bottom since 1996. The cartoon character created by marine biologist and animator Stephen Hillenburg, which came from an unpublished book and metamorphosed into a massive hit TV series for Nickelodeon, has long since passed the point where it can be described as a media phenomenon. It is claimed that the franchise has generated $13 billion in merchandising revenue alone for Nickelodeon, and is the company’s highest-rated series ever. Which is all very well, but not of primary interest to us until SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical hit the stage in 2017, at which point what was otherwise an amusing TV kids’ cartoon series strayed very much into our area with some ground-breaking sound design and, curiously, a very 21st Century take on one of the oldest theatrical professions: Foley artist.
If the cartoon series, which was first screened in 1999, was a media sensation, the musical version has been no lesser event. Initially staged in Chicago, it arrived on Broadway last year and earned 12 Tony award nominations and endless praise from the critics. Notable was the nomination for best sound design of a musical, which put Walter Trarbach and Mike Dobson, the show’s sound and live Foley designers, respectively, in the frame.
There are, as you might expect, many unusual things about the musical SpongeBob, including a tap-dancing,...
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