“Spongebob the Musical,” scheduled to open on Broadway this year, will feature a Harding graduate in the role of Mrs. Puff as well as other ensemble roles throughout the show.
Abby C. Smith graduated from Harding in 2003 with a B.A. in music and a minor in theatre. After graduation, Smith worked at the A.D. Players Theater in Houston for two years before enrolling in graduate school at Oklahoma City University to earn a master’s in musical theatre.
After moving to New York upon completion of graduate school, Smith said she has worked for both touring stage productions and television. She made an appearance in “Orange is the New Black” and was a special guest on several episodes of ABC’s show “What Would You Do?” Smith said she even made an appearance in season one of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” last year.
“I played the secretary, Fat Rhonda,” Smith said. “But if you blink, you’ll miss me.”
When she was first approached with information about “Spongebob the Musical,” Smith said she was inherently skeptical.
“I was already in college when the (Spongebob) cartoon became popular, so it was too ‘young’ for me,” Smith said. “But my agent called me and said, ‘There’s an ensemble track in this new show that’s great for you. How are your tap skills? How are your instrument playing skills?’ And I kind of just said, ‘Sure, whatever, I’ll audition.'”
Smith said the show is currently scheduled to open within a year, at a location in New York that has yet to be determined. In its preview run in Chicago in June, “Spongebob the Musical” received generally positive reviews from critics. Chris Jones, reporter for the Chicago Tribune, said the spirit of the show is “anarchic and rebellious.”
“The huge set spills out into the theater, making everyone feel like a kid again,” Jones said in a June 19 review. “We watch Spongebob and his pals have their best day ever.”
Communication professor Jack Shock was able to see the show during its preview run, and said that the show was enjoyable and contained a message for young and old alike.
“I’m a Broadway producer’s dream,” Shock said. “I have never seen one minute of ‘Spongebob Squarepants,’ but within two minutes, I was into the story and music.”
Shock said that Smith used her subtle acting skills and dynamic voice to bring her character to life.
“For me, all eyes were on (Smith), because I was watching with her mother and sister,” Shock said. “So I’m told there were other people on stage.”
Smith said her years as an undergraduate at Harding shaped her decisions to pursue musical theatre at Oklahoma City University.
“When I first got to Harding, I didn’t know what I wanted to do at all,” Smith said. “But I remember when I first started doing shows in college, (Shock) came and saw them and wrote me encouraging notes … So the opportunities and people here have definitely helped me so much.”