The SpongeBob Musical – Bord Gais Energy Theatre – Review

The SpongeBob Musical – Bord Gais Energy Theatre – Review
by Lesley-Ann Whelan

Bord Gáis Energy Theatre – 9th -13th May

One could say that SpongeBob SquarePants is a guilty pleasure to watch, but if it is wrong to love a SpongeBob universe in which Keanu Reeves is a tumbleweed with a human face, I don’t want to be right. SpongeBob bounced onto our screens in 1999, created by Stephen Hillenburg and became one of Nickelodeon’s top-rated shows. It is a cartoon that is about an unshakably optimistic yellow Sea sponge who works as a fry cook at the Krusty Krab and lives with his friends in Bikini Bottom, a town in the Pacific Ocean.

The first inkling anyone had that there was going to be a musical version made of the cartoon was when Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips announced on Twitter that he was writing a song for a developing SpongeBob musical back in 2014. This gives you an idea of the calibre of music that makes up this musical. The soundscape of Bikini Bottom is made up of songs from over 20 international artists including David Bowie and Brian Eno, Panic!At the Disco, Cyndi Lauper, They Might Be Giants, John Legend, Sarah Bareillies and Steven Tyler and Joe Perry from Aerosmith. The original production opened in 2016 and since then has been performed in more than 170 countries and has been nominated for 12 Tony awards.

Last night the UK and Ireland Tour arrived in Dublin to a crowd mainly made up of families with fanatical small human fans, dressed up as their favourite characters. Since returning to Bord Gáis Theatre after a global epidemic hiatus, I have enjoyed the level of audience participation at musicals. Over the last month I have seen Six, Heathers and now SpongeBob and marvelled at the range of costumes the audiences have worn to each. And this is a musical full of audience participation, akin to the panto.

Upon entering the theatre, you are already struck by the vibrant production design, with the eclectic cast of characters decked out in some amazing costumes, capturing the essence of their animated counterparts rather than going for a carbon copy representation. The plot revolves around a threat to Bikini Bottom in the shape of an erupting volcano which will bring about the destruction of the town if it can’t be stopped. Plankton (Divina De Campo), the eternal arch nemesis of SpongeBob (Lewis Cornay) and Mr Krabs (Richard J Hunt), sees this as their opportunity to finally dominate the fast food world with their Chum Bucket fare by hypnotising the panicked residents of Bikini Bottom into believing that this food is the greatest. Only one sponge is brave enough to stand up and be the hero that this town needs, and with his best friends Patrick (Irfan Damani) and Sandy (Chrissie Bhima), SpongeBob takes on the task of attempting to save the town.

The casting of Divina De Campo, best known as a finalist in Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK, secured an older teen and twenty-something audience and her impressive vocal range has already secured previous roles in Chicago and Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Plankton’s costume gave a fantastic nod to the cartoon counterpart by having a tiny version of Plankton attached to their boot. The mums in the audience could relive their Pop Idol days in the form of Gareth Gates, who was pipped to the post by Will Young in the 2002 contest. He gave an unforgettable performance of the somewhat unsympathetic character of Squidward. Richard Arnold, a morning TV favourite, gave a hilarious virtual performance as Perch Perkins.

The cast were given the unenviable task of singing in character voices that could be most unforgiving, in that they are mainly in the squeaky range, and handled it with aplomb. In particular, Lewis Cornay as SpongeBob and Sarah Freer who played Pearl Krabs, gave knock-out vocal performances. It was also lovely to see the band performing on stage and being so integral to the plot of the show. My twelve-year-old companion was very impressed by the choreography and thought that the stage direction was excellent.

The SpongeBob Musical has a relatively short run, finishing on Saturday 13th May so you’ll need to be quick to pick up tickets. Worth every penny when you are joining in at the end of the show for a rousing chorus of the theme tune… “Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?”


Categories: Header, Theatre, Theatre Review

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