COLLEGEVILLE — Her character in "The SpongeBob Musical" may be a long way from the queen of "South Pacific," Nellie Forbush, but Caitlin Ort brings her passion for musical theater to both roles equally.

"'South Pacific' is such a beautiful story; it's definitely one of my favorite musicals. The music is just timeless," noted the Collegeville native, on the phone from Oklahoma City, to promote her current stop touring with "The SpongeBob Musical."

Ort has appeared in both professional and community theater versions of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic "South Pacific."

"It was a very fulfilling experience working on that show because the message is so important, about tolerance of people who are different than you and finding similarities in people you assumed are very different from you."

Bringing SpongeBob's Karen the Computer to life was a decidedly different experience, noted Ort, who stars in "The SpongeBob Musical" at the Forrest Theater in Philadelphia from Dec. 3 through 15.

"I grew up on SpongeBob, so I was familiar with the cartoon character, but what's different about this show is that in the cartoon she is a computer but in the musical she is portrayed as a humanized version of the character," Ort said of the show. "All of the characters have their own human versions of these roles and very much have a human take, and the director, Tina Landau, had so many cool ideas about how my character moves through space and she is influenced by robotic movement but still has a human quality about what her needs and wants are. It's very much taking inspiration from the cartoon characters but making them human. The show is very much what the Broadway production was, same costume design, set design and choreography. Tina is a collaborative director and is an ensemble-first director. So what we do onstage we can take ownership of because we developed it as a group. Tina was very open and communicative with us if we had questions or ideas we wanted to try out."

Inspired by the long-running Nickelodeon TV program, "The SpongeBob Musical" won a 2018 Tony award and was a 2019 Best Musical winner of the Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards. The production stars 2019 University of the Arts graduate and Scranton native Lorenzo Pugliese as SpongeBob Squarepants and features an original pop and rock-infused musical score by a roster of Grammy Award-winning songwriters, including Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Sara Bareilles, Lady Antebellum, The Flaming Lips, Cyndi Lauper and many others.

The show was created for a diverse audience, noted Ort, who received a BFA in Musical Theater from Ithaca College.

"Most of our audiences are a mix of adults who want to bring their kids to the show or are in their 20s and 30s and grew up with SpongeBob and want to see the musical version of it. It's sophisticated enough for an adult to appreciate but iconic for children to recognize these characters and appreciate all the colors and the dancing and the music. So it's really a show that anyone can enjoy," Ort said. "It's a departure from the cartoon because it's not recreating anything from the cartoon. It's an entirely different story. It is a Broadway musical for all different types of audience members. It really is a show for everyone."

Ort, a 2012 Methacton High School grad now living in New York, won the role after a series of auditions.

"I was familiar with the casting agency so I contacted the casting office and asked for an appointment to be seen because I thought that I was really right for it. I auditioned for them seven times over the course of about five weeks. Then I just waited for a few months and I got a phone call saying I got the part. When national tours are going out oftentimes they call people in several times, especially when you're going in for such a big role. The creative team often wants to work with you as much as you can to see how you take direction see if you're a right fit for it."

Ort's interest in musical theater began at a young age, when she appeared in local community theater productions, she recalled.

"The first musical I ever did was with Methacton Community Theater when they did 'The King and I.' I've been hooked on it ever since, trying to get involved with as many community theater shows as I could, and also the high school productions."

It all naturally evolved into a desire for a career in the industry, she said.

"I wasn't sure it was even something you could pursue a degree in, but my older sister Megan and I both learned that you could pursue a degree in performance arts. We both ended up going to Ithaca College and getting degrees in musical theater," Ort said.

With Megan now touring with a professional opera company, both sisters achieved success fairly quickly.

Ort's professional credits also include roles in "A Charlie Brown Christmas" (Frieda); "The Merry Wives of Windsor" (Mistress Ford), "Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery" (Actress 1); "Ragtime" (Evelyn Nesbit); "Show Boat" (Kim Ravenal)"; "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" (Hedy LaRue) and "Jesus Christ Superstar."

Her website is www.caitlinort.com

"I've been very fortunate with the work that's been coming my way since I graduated," Ort said. "I think a lot of it has to do with having a very supportive family. My sisters and my parents have just been so supportive of me having a career. They kept my spirits up even when I auditioned for hundreds and hundreds of jobs and only a small percentage (panned out), so I think that's one of the reasons I've been having success. I do have this huge passion for live theater," she added, "but I'm also interested in different forms of the entertainment business so I've been thinking of branching out lately."

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