Review The Spongebob Musical, Wales Millennium Centre by James Ellis 

Photo credit: Mark Senior

 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

The musical nebula has now taken a plunge to the briny deep of Bikini Bottom. Yet, can a live stage show of a beloved animation from Nickelodeon work? This could be the first musical for a lot of young ones, so there is that…

Easily a live show mostly for children, I’m still getting my head round the roster of newly written songs for the show. We see the likes of Cyndi Lauper, Steven Tyler/Joe Perry, The Flaming Lips, John Legend and Panic! At the Disco all making offerings here, as well as other artists. If the dizzying amount of work which went into the music had gone into the story, this would be an all round success. Kyle Jarrow with the book, took his shot, though its not quite right. I guess I’m a veteran of the original show, who saw it when it first came out when I was in high school, the mass of memes and gifs is tantamount to its staying power today. The late creator Stephen Hillenberg is now dearly missed, his TV show remains as a cherished creation.

We start off with typical pirates and the mock impersonation of deep sea explorer Jacques Cousteau (who co-invented scuba gear, no less) and we are catapulted into the bottom of the ocean. The characters here appear to make use of the vast litter which humans have dumped into the ocean. The show embraces the upcycled aspect of the premise and goes into over drive. We see bottles, cups, marigolds and more grabbed for the show, quite clever in some ways.

The sound also needs a lot of work. Many times the singers when talking were drowned out by the band or mics being not high up enough. This lead to some jokes not landing, past some clunkiness of the script. The story is very slight, a volcano threatens the town when Spongebob and friends try to save the day. The villian Plankton, conjures up another evil scheme with Karen the Computer, the only real subplot which doesn’t go anywhere aside little pay off (they just sort of get away with their wickedness). The songs though by a vast array of musicians, never feel too jarring and are quite fun in many respects. Pop, country, rock, gospel and rap all feature proudly. Most songs do gave that musical sheen you’d expect.

The cast demonstrate some great to average impersonations of the cartoon characters they take on. As Squidward, Gareth Gates does the nasal, though could even do more. He gets a tab sequence for the four legs and feet as said squid and I was glad there were moments with his clarinet, which the character is seen with in the show. Richard J Hunt as Mr Krabs attempts the pseudo-Scottish brogue of the miser crab fella, an odd role is more about the jokes than the songs. Divina De Campo as Plankton is great casting, though working with this script the role doesn’t reach much more than fun and not funny enough. Davina’s rap sequence vs Spongebob remained a highlight.

Photo credit: Mark Senior

As the title character, Lewis Cornay is near perfect. The whine, the laugh, the gait…everything. Nice pipes proves his talents and a sharp sense of comic timing is also there. Irfan Damani captures the splubby nature of Patrick Starfish, the less intelligent one. Tangled up in a cult of sardines, his humour comes from softly spoken insights and a few classic quotes from the show. Sandy the Squirel is from a delightful Chrissie Bhima, the outsider part who adds a whip of Texas to the show, I was expecting more country music! Perhaps the best vocals belong to Sarah Freer as the whale daughter of Mr Kraps, Pearl. Though her clothes made her look more like an octopus, she clomps around and stunned with a piercing voice I’d love to hear in other things. Hannah Lowther as Karen the Computer works with a very limited character, who only really serves Plankton, in their love hate relationship.

Minor roles also evoke the connecting fibre in playing in these recognisable parts. This is thanks to the marvellous costumes of Sarah Mercadé which are worth seeing just for admission. 

The Spongebob Musical runs at the Wales Millennium Centre till 10th June 2023, then on tour. 

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