David Bowie pens music for SpongeBob stage version

David Bowie pens music for SpongeBob stage version
PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK - David Bowie, known for the intellectual bent of his music, is penning music for what will likely be lighter fare - a musical based on cartoon character SpongeBob.

Chicago's Oriental Theatre announced that the English rock icon and artist is leading an array of top musicians in composing the score for "SpongeBob The Musical" which will premiere there on June 7 next year.

Other musicians who will contribute material include The Flaming Lips and They Might Be Giants, two US bands with similarly eclectic interests, as well as 1980s pop superstar Cyndi Lauper, members of hard rock legends Aerosmith and singer-songwriter John Legend.

The musical adapts the animated series "SpongeBob SquarePants," in which the title character - a talking human-like sponge - explores an underwater city called Bikini Bottom.

The musical will run for one month in Chicago before an expected move to Broadway in New York, the Oriental Theatre said in its show announcement.

Since its debut in 1999, the television series has been a massive success for Nickelodeon, the children-oriented US television network owned by Viacom.

"SpongeBob SquarePants" has won a wide following as well among adults, with US President Barack Obama a professed fan, although conservative Christian activists have attacked the show for an alleged gay subtext.

"SpongeBob The Musical" is the second current stage project by the 68-year-old Bowie, who had kept quiet for a decade before returning to the scene with his 2013 album "The Next Day." Bowie also wrote the music for "Lazarus," which premieres in November at the New York Theatre Workshop.

"Lazarus" is based on the cult classic science fiction novel "The Man Who Fell to Earth," about an alien who arrives in search of water and becomes enamored of alcohol and television.

Bowie starred in the 1976 film version of "The Man Who Fell to Earth" but did not write the music amid contractual disputes.

Bowie, a pioneer of glam rock, has probed the nature of the universe on works such as "Space Oddity" and "Life on Mars?" A trained actor, Bowie won acclaim for his portrayal on Broadway in 1980-81 of the severely deformed Englishman Joseph Merrick in "The Elephant Man." Bowie is not expected to act in either "SpongeBob the Musical," whose cast was not immediately announced, or "Lazarus," which will star Michael C. Hall, known for the title role on the television series "Dexter."

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