Florida Repertory Theater transforms into Bikini Bottom for a SpongeBob SquarePants musical.

The lead role of SpongeBob is played by Southwest Florida-born actor Landon Maas, who has since made it to Broadway. Maas played Harry Potter in the Broadway production of Cursed Child.

The 14-year-old returned to Southwest Florida, where he is a student at Gateway High.

“Obviously I’m taller and older. But I think it feels so similar, but at the same time so different,” said Maas.

Maas said he used to watch SpongeBob every morning before school and on weekends.

“SpongeBob is such an upbeat character. And so it’s kind of nice to bring that optimism and hope into your normal life,” Maas said.

The rest of the gang is brought to life by local child actors.

After weeks of hard work, the SpongeBob cast is ready for their debut.

Opening night is Thursday and the plan is to take you under the sea.

“You should be underwater as this character, you have to get your body moving to be underwater, you have to practice this choreography along with it, and most importantly, act these characters,” said Michael Shelley, a 16-year-old student at the Fort Myers High School, who plays Patrick Star.

Michael said he was referring to Patrick, the fun-loving starfish who plays SpongeBob’s best friend.

“I absolutely loved SpongeBob growing up. I think that’s one of my main reasons. I’m so happy to be on the show,” Michael said.

The production is full of bubbles, music and beach balls, but the most important part is the lessons learned by the students.

“On the ability to communicate in the theatre. First, they learn to walk in someone else’s shoes. Seeing the world from a different perspective than our own. It teaches them discipline,” said Christina DeCarlo, SpongeBob’s musical director.

The cast and crew welcome everyone to Bikini Bottom in hopes of spreading joy.

“You won’t believe what the Southwest Florida students are doing on stage. You will feel rejuvenated after seeing it. No matter how old you are, it brings back childhood memories. And you’ll just walk away with a big smile on your face,” DeCarlo said.

The show will run through May 28 at the Florida Repertory Theater in downtown Fort Myers.

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