Walter Trarbach and Mike Dobson talk about the sound challenges that the musical faces.
“I still resent you for making me put a microphone on a trash can!” jokes SpongeBob SquarePants sound designer Walter Trarbach to his colleague, foley artist Mike Dobson. The jovial pair, who created the aural landscape for the imaginative Broadway adaptation of Nickelodeon’s long-running cartoon series, share a Tony Award nomination for the newly reinstated Sound Design of a Musical category — though their roles on the show are quite different.
As foley designer, Dobson was responsible for the sound effects, which he plays live at each performance. (He’s also a member of the orchestra.) Trarbach had to concoct a sound system that could handle the show’s eclectic score, which is comprised of songs in a variety of musical styles from recording artists ranging from rapper T.I. to alt-rockers They Might Be Giants.
“You need to make sure that the audience experiences the story in the most powerful and impactful way possible,” he tells Billboard. “If you’re doing Jesus Christ Superstar [he was associate sound designer of that show's 2012 Broadway revival] you can basically set it up as a rock and roll sound system. But we needed to have a sound system which could manifest enough power for the number written by, say, Aerosmith, and also that could be sensitive enough [for the John Legend ballad].”