by Mo Brady
You know when you find a musical theatre song that you can’t stop listening to?
That doesn’t happen me.
My obsession with musical theatre scores gets even more specific. I get obsessed with moments of musical theatre songs: specific chord progressions and vocal arrangements that simultaneously send a shiver down my spine and a smile across my face. And I just found a new song to wear out the repeat button on my iPhone with.
Of course, this is not the first time I’ve been unable to stop listening to a song from a Broadway cast album. In the summer of 2015, I played the chord progression between 0:45-0:48 of Hamilton’s “Yorktown” on repeat for three months straight. Last winter, I couldn’t stop listening to 2:32-5:02 of Dear Evan Hansen’s “You Will be Found.” And now, I’ve become obsessed with the second and third verses of “Super Sea Star Savior” from SpongeBob Squarepants.
When I saw SpongeBob last month at Broadway’s Palace Theatre, I was appreciating the first act but wondering in the show was really “for me.” But when the first soulful strains of “Super Sea Star Savior” began, my ears perked up. It’s like Tina Landau was standing behind me, whispering “you’ll like this one” in my ear.
For those who haven’t seen the show, “Super Sea Star Savior” takes place about 2/3rds the way through Act I. Patrick Star, the titular character’s BFF, has been heralded by a group of cultist sardines as their new savior. The song builds from introspective adoration of Patrick to a full-scale production number. Written by Yolanda Adams, the song is the most gospel-infused of the score (complete with four-corner church claps, thanks to choreographer Christopher Gattelli).
The whole song is a great piece of musical theatre but, as I said, it’s the second and third verses that really turn my crank. When the bass solo begins that pulsating rock groove at 0:54, I can feel the stress leave my body as my shoulders settle away from my earlobes. The soloist’s slide from “every” into “where” at 0:59 melts the furrow off of my brow. Lauralyn McClleland’s lilting belt on “found” at 1:04, and the weight with which she ends the word “prayer” put a smirk across my face.
I could keep going. The addition of the tambourine at 1:44. The vocal sforzando at 2:07. The way Danny Skinner transitions so purely from note to note in the word at “everyone” at 2:36.
Is this kind of obsession over ensemble vocals normal? I don’t care. Because it reminds me being a kid again. When I was in high school, I used to drive my parents’ minivan through the suburbs of Seattle blasting Rent and The Wiz. Back then, musical theatre wasn’t a career or an industry. It was simply a dream.
Blasting “Ease on Down the Road” and “La Vie Boheme B” out the windows of a Chevy Astro, I felt whole. I wasn’t thinking about the future, I was living in the moment. It was exactly where I was supposed to be. Today, playing these perfect musical theatre moments in my ear buds as I walk through Times Square reminds me of how the simple (and specific) places in which we can find joy.
So if you see me walking through Midtown Manhattan, loudly humming an alto part to myself, please don’t stop me. I’m celebrating the pure joy that musical theatre can bring.
What moments from Broadway cast albums are your current obsessions? Let me know: I’m @mo_brady on Instagram.