Spongebob the Musical – 5th September 2023
An electric buzz filled Newcastle Theatre Royal as Spongebob the Musical came to town. It was so refreshing to see such a young audience and even some adults dressed for the occasion – I particularly loved the Spongebob and Patrick fancy dress outfits from the people sitting behind me. If I had children I would be delighted in them enjoying this musical theatre experience. As such a lover of theatre it is so lovely to have a show that both adults and children alike can enjoy. I also noticed a few adults with additional needs who had come to enjoy the show which was truly lovely to see such inclusivity. It really was a delight for the senses.
I have never seen the theatre so alive with excitement and this musical did not disappoint. It was a breath of fresh air and I have never seen anything quite like it. Truly unique in every way but also staying incredibly authentic to the beloved T.V show that so many of us know and love. Just like the show however, it is like marmite – a real love/ hate dynamic but I am definitely on the pro Bikini Bottom team!
The stage was adorned with the most wonderfully bright, neon lights embedded in the deep sea blue drapes- every inch the underwater experience we expected. Of course, we couldn’t forget about the two neon signs of the rival burger houses – The Krusty Krab and the Chum Bucket. The touring show cleverly used screens throughout the show too which added such a great effect. Bravo to Ben Bull for designing the Lighting and Videos. They were often sharing signs which left a lot of the adults in kinks. I particularly loved the nod to the Covid signage during the emergency – Stay at Home! Keep Kelp Safe! Our favourite had to be when they were showing the headliners for the concert – Cod Stewart and Billie Eelish – a stroke of genius. Our TV News Anchor, Perch Perkins, was voiced and played by the iconic Richard Arnold from ITV’s Good Morning Britain. This was just one of the many name drops from this iconic cast.
I have to say I have been mightily impressed by the social media efforts of this show. Their Tik Tok and Instagram are always active and before the show even began I felt like I knew some of the characters. I think other shows should take note of this as it really did make the show more enjoyable as I watched the characters come to life on stage. They have had big stars pushing this campaign I guess alongside Tik Tok sensation, Hannah Lowther, who I was beyond excited to see. Our Squidward of the night was the one and only Mr Gareth Gates as well which made me incredibly excited and curious to see what he would deliver. Rounding off the star cast is the immensely talented Divina De Campo from my favourite T.V show- Drag Race UK.
The staging was incredibly clever and was easily wheeled around by the members of the cast. As we know, I adore it when sets are easily interchangeable like this and this was no exception. A slick, well rehearsed job by the cast especially when the volcano scene came around. This is no mean feat to move staging but they truly made it look effortless and believable.
The costuming throughout was a feast for the eyes. Bright colours made the stage shine with inventive ideas and creations. Don’t expect a typical SpongeBob costume however … they have thought outside of the box here and most of the costumes were spot on for the characters with colours aligning. The only one I didn’t see a resemblance to was Pearl Krabbs – maybe it needed to be bigger or more dramatic? Also, where was Sandy’s astronaut helmet? Maybe I’m asking for too much! A lot of the set and costuming was actually made from recycled materials which I thought was really clever. The Electric Skates and other characters had headwear made from CD’s, plastic straws and bottles. Not only is this an excellent use and example of recycling but it was clever as this would be what we now find polluting our seas sadly. Sarah Mercade on costume design did a stellar job.
I had never listened to the soundtrack for this musical but I was aware that some huge names had created songs for this score such as Cyndi Lauper, Panic at the Disco, Aerosmith, Sara Bareilles, Plain White T’s and John Legend … just to name a few! It really is a spectacle and has such a wide variety of genres of music throughout including some ballads, some more upbeat songs and even a rap song! This meant I never felt bored once whilst listening, such a good variety.
The talent of the cast on stage really blew me away though. First and foremost the yellow man himself, SpongeBob SquarePants who was perfectly cast with Lewis Cornay. When I tell you he had every detail nailed down I mean it. A serious triple threat. His voice imitated that grating SpongeBob tone so perfectly. From the very first scene he lit that stage on fire being a bundle of energy and continued to do so throughout the entire performance. An incredible range allowed him to deliver his songs with maximum potential and I adored his comedic timing and physical comedy on stage. The award for best staging of a song has to go to (Just a) Simple Sponge with the neon sponges dancing around the stage. The rest of the stage plummeted into darkness revealing floating neon sponges which depicted different pictures and really looked as though they were swimming through the sea. So impressive!
Alongside Lewis, Irfan Damani joined him as his best friend Patrick Starr. He had the loveable, dopey character down to a tee but his voice didn’t mirror Patrick’s maybe as much as I’d have liked. However, Irfan sang so beautifully throughout all of his songs. I particularly enjoyed his duets with SpongeBob – BFF and (I Guess I) Miss You, the latter being my favourite song throughout the whole show – it really tugged on my heart strings! The use of props on stage was so much fun too- I loved the gigantic bubble and the two genuinely looked like they were having so much fun up there together.
Their accomplice Sandy Cheeks was played by Eloise Davies who is the cover of Sandy not that you’d ever be able to tell. I know Eloise actually covers SpongeBob sometimes and she is a real talent! She even managed to nail Sandy’s tricky Texan accent. A lot of the characters throughout this actual play multiple people which I always find amazing. They utilise every single person on that stage to perfection and some of the quick changes were just outstanding especially from Hannah Lowther. Hannah plays Karen the Computer in SpongeBob and I had been so excited to see her in a production. Her physical acting was outstanding as she truly looked like a computer malfunctioning! Her dance ability is also impeccable but her singing really surprised me- what a powerhouse who can literally put on any voice needed! I may have just seen a reel of where she is heading to next … I’ll give you SIX guesses!
Karen the Computer of course is married to the evil Sheldon J Plankton who was played by the wonderful Divina De Campo. I knew she could sing as she smashed her song challenge on Drag Race with those whistle tones and she was also a judge on BBC’s All Together Now. The way they portrayed this character and brought him to life on stage was so clever. I adored his song When the Going Gets Tough and how quickly Divina was able to spit those bars. What a raptress! So impressive! She truly played the perfect baddie and had the evil laugh down.
My favourite surprise of the night had to be Squidward Q Tentacles and we were lucky enough to see Gareth Gates perform this role. Now we all know Gareth can sing, which he did perfectly, but I was dubious about how his acting and dancing skills would be. I had actually read before the show that Gareth had never tapped danced and he had to learn for this part. I was blown away by his presence throughout on stage and I couldn’t take my eyes off of him from the perfect frowned face, the voice and accent – which was truly perfect and that TAP DANCE! I fell in love with his portrayal of the character – a real grump but he made it just so loveable. His costume was also iconic with the four legs – truly brilliant.
Mr Krabs was played by Richard J Hunt and Pearl Krabs played by Sarah Freer worked perfectly together on stage both with such brilliant comedy timing and singing voices. Poor Pearl did a great job of stomping on and off stage and the rest of the cast always reacted so perfectly bringing that cartoon feel that we needed. I loved the use of everyday props on stage to create the walking sound effects for some of the characters – Mr Krabs had his maraca sound whenever he moved across the stage and Squidwards … rubber pig maybe, creating his squeak! Really intelligent and comical use of these items!
The list could go on and on for the talent on stage but my final mention has to go to Theo Reece who plays Larry the Lobster. He was just so hilarious and acted out so many of the stupid jokes so well. The direction on the stage was truly perfection with every last detail having been thought out. All of those tiny details didn’t go unnoticed and the use of the bubbles at the end was so magical for the younger members of the audience … okay, and myself I’ll admit! Tara Overfield Wilkinson did a spectacular job directing this tricky show and Fabian Aloise brought so many of the songs to life with his dynamic, high energy and innovative choreography.
A true sensation. Fun, family friendly and fabulous. A stage filled with such vibrancy, life and character it is difficult not to fall in love with the cast! A real treat for all of the senses. There are still tickets left for the last few shows of the whole tour as it ends here in our very own Theatre Royal! Grab them whilst you can!