The SpongeBob Musical
Unless you have been living in a pineapple in the sea the chances are you have heard of SpongeBob SquarePants, the American animated children’s TV show which tells of life in Bikini Bottom with SpongeBob, his best friend Patrick Star and Sandy as well as Plankton, Karen and Mr Krabs. The musical takes many of these well known elements and tells Bikini Bottom being in danger from Mount Humungous which is about to erupt. Plankton and Karen come up with a scheme to hypnotise the creatures of Bikini Bottom in an escape vessel where as Sandy has a more scientific answer but the residents refuse to trust her as she isn’t from there.
Whilst the story itself has one overarching theme (how to save Bikini Bottom) it is made up of many threads, from Sandy being an outsider to Plankton and Karen’s evil scheme and from Squidwards desire to perform on stage to the cult that Patrick Star inspires. There are clear overt political and moral messages within this show but due to the sheer number of them none are really delved into deeply, even for a family show. It was also clear that much of the musical (understandably) was aimed at those who were very familiar with the TV show. I therefore missed many of the jokes and character details. The show also opened both Acts with a pirate segment, whilst I understand the reference back to the TV show these segments were overly long and added nothing to the plotline. For a family show it is already a lengthy show and these segments could be easily shorted or worked in differently.
The songs within the show vary massively in style due to being penned by a huge array of well known names, everyone from Sara Bareilles to Steven Tyler and Joe Perry and from David Bowie to Cyndi Lauper. As you would expect from such esteemed writers many of the numbers are catchy and I found myself wanting to listen to numbers such as (Just A) Simple Sponge, Hero Is My Middle Name and Chop To The Top to name a few. One catch was that within one show there was so many different types of musical stylistically that it began to feel like a tick box exercise as to what other musical theatre style they could fit in and as a result did not feel very cohesive.
There were moments of brilliance within the show. During (Just A) Simple Sponge the staging was performed with SpongeBob and UV Sponges creating patterns out of thin air and moving seamlessly from one shape to the next. The cultist sardines were also inspired with everything from how they moved as one to how they spoke, it clearly got across the idea of a family of sardines moving as one. Other moments however felt cheap
The cast were all superb and leading them was Lewis Cornay as SpongeBob SquarePants himself. Not only was his energy sky high, his comic timing was spot on but he delivered his ballads with incredible vocal strength, especially considering the accent he had to maintain throughout. Divina DeCampo played Plankton and was the perfect over the top baddy with the audience, adults and children alike keen to see her plan fail. Chrissie Bhima played Sandy Cheeks and Sarah Freer played Pearl Krabs and between them their vocals were jaw dropping. All of the cast totally threw themselves into their roles and the majority of them when not playing their main named part picked up smaller parts.
The SpongeBob Musical is fun bright show for the family with some clever elements however for those of us that didn’t grow up with SpongeBob or simply want a more cohesive musical then this may not be the show for you.
The SpongeBob Musical is on at Southbank Centre until 27th August and from there it continues its tour to Plymouth and Newcastle. You can find out more and book tickets here.