By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Cody Cooley understands the attraction to SpongeBob SquarePants—the jokes (“What’s better than 24? 25!”), the brightly colored sea life and the strong friendship between SpongeBob and Squidward.

When Cooley auditioned for Squidward in “The SpongeBob Musical,” he knew he had to land it.

“I saw the show on Broadway in March 2018,” he says. “I admit I wasn’t so optimistic, but I loved it. I wanted to be a part of it.”

Cooley was acting in Arizona Broadway Theatre’s “Guys and Dolls,” but quickly sent in tapes.

“They asked me if I wanted to do it and I said, ‘Absolutely,’” he says. “I absolutely wanted to do it.”

Staging at the Orpheum Theatre Friday, January 31, to Sunday, February 2, “The SpongeBob Musical” features songs by the likes of Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Sara Bareilles, The Flaming Lips, Lady Antebellum, Cyndi Lauper & Rob Hyman (The Hooters), John Legend, Panic! At the Disco, Plain White T’s, They Might Be Giants and David Bowie.

The storyline shares impending doom during the 2-hour and 15-minute show, without intermission.

“It’s based on the things you know from the show, but they created an original storyline where in the first 5 minutes of the show a natural disaster is about to happen,” Cooley says.

“It shares how the characters deal with it, and how the different groups of people blame each other, how the community comes together and how things can fall apart. It’s interesting seeing how people react to this impending doom.”

“It’s definitely a show that kids will love because there’s so much color and so much choreography,” says Cooley, who appeared in ABT’s “American in Paris,” “Catch Me If You Can” and “Showboat” as well.

“The characters are reminiscent of what they are on the screen. It’s not like an amusement park musical, but the characters are based on what you see on the TV show.”

“SpongeBob SquarePants” launched on July 17, 1999, and has reigned as the No. 1 kids’ animated series on TV for the last 17 years, generating a universe of characters, catchphrases and memes.

SpongeBob SquarePants is seen in more than 208 countries and territories, translated in 55-plus languages, and averaging more than 100 million viewers every quarter. The character-driven cartoon chronicles the nautical and sometimes nonsensical adventures of SpongeBob, an incurable optimist and earnest sea sponge, and his undersea friends.

The show appeals to adults as well, thanks to its clever humor. Kids and adults alike get a kick out of Cooley’s number when he tap dances with four legs.

“That’s very alluring for an actor—doing something I wouldn’t normally do or ever do again,” Cooley says. “It was challenging, but honestly, we did it so much I quickly had my sea legs.”

Cooley says the biggest challenge is balancing realism and the flavor of the cartoon. The actors take bits from the cartoon and mesh those traits with their own personality.

“That’s where the humanity comes out, the realism comes out,” he says. “I hope people get joy out of this show. That’s our mission—to spread as much joy as possible. I think the show really does that.

“That’s what we hear from the responses from the people at the stage door or the people we see on the street. There’s a lot of joy and I hope kids and adults gain a love of theater.”

“The SpongeBob Musical,” The Orpheum, 203 W. Adams Street, Phoenix, 602.262.7272,, 8 p.m. Friday, January 31, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, February 1, 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, February 2, tickets start at $42.25.