Review: SpongeBob the Musical, UK Tour 2023

    This dazzling, toe-tapping stage musical spin-off of the iconic Nickelodeon TV series will have the whole family singing and smiling about for days says Wersha Bharadwa

    Credit: Mark Senior

    Certain to make a splash with audiences of all ages and based on the hit Nickelodeon cartoon TV series of the same name, the musical’s aquatic themed and saccharine-blasting set design and visuals are an immediate hit to the senses alongside an all-singing and all-dancing ensemble directed by Tara Overfield Wilkinson.

    After a successful pre pandemic run on Broadaway, the UK premiere of the musical opened at Birmingham Hippodrome last week and is now touring across the country ahead of a five-week spell at the Queen Elizabeth Hall at London’s Southbank Centre from 26th July to 26th August 2023.

    The story focuses on the threat of a nearby volcano erupting close to SpongeBob’s (Lewis Cornay) and the other characters idyllic under water hometown of Bikini Bottom. Our kind-hearted protagonist and his chums, Patrick Star (played to perfection by Irfan Damani) and science-loving squirrel Sandy Cheeks (Chrissie Bhima) attempt to prevent the volcano from completing destroying their undersea world in the process.

    Chrissie Bhima as Sandy. Credit: Mark Senior

    Other side plots in the musical extravaganza include SpongeBob’s desire to become manager of the diner he works at, a topical and satirical look at government bureaucracy in the form of a bumbling town mayor and the significance of empowering friendships.

    Near the end of act one, Lewis Cornay as SpongeBob effortlessly belts out stand-out solo number ‘(Just a) Simple Sponge’ against mesmerising choreography of dancing neon sponges and a blackout stage as he learns the importance of self-determination and inner strength.

    It’s a spectacle for sure.

    Lewis Cornay as SpongeBob. Credit: Mark Senior

    Plankton is the scheming villain you’ll love to hate (played faultlessly by an oh-so-cool Divina de Campo from RuPaul’s Drag Race UK) who adds to drama by attempting to thwart SpongeBob but also dazzles with a fabulous, high-energy hip hop rendition of ‘When the Going Gets Tough.’ The song includes an excellent rap battle with SpongeBob which proves to be a standout highlight.

    Gareth Gates is not only unrecognisable as Squidward – an octopus in an inventive costume –  he commands the stage every time he appears in a scene and performs his role with great warmth and humour.  Gates performs show-stopper, ‘I’m not a Loser’ after the interval and the giddy riot of dance, colour and strong vocals keeps everyone, young and old captivated in their seats.

    Gareth Gates as Squidward. Credit: Mark Senior

    Sarah Freer masters control over the range needed for “Daddy Knows Best”, a powerhouse rock ballad as she plays Pearl, the daughter of SpongeBob’s money-obsessed boss. She is accompanied on stage by The Electric Skates, who make up part of the show’s actual orchestra and are not only featured visibly onstage for the duration of the show but feature in the story line too.

    It’s a fantastic element of the show that the audience can see the musicians playing live during the entire production and expertly holding it together along with the fact much of the score includes original songs from major hit makers such as Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, Cyndi Lauper, David Bowie and John Legend.

    Hannah Lowther as Karen the Computer and Davina De Campo as Plankton. Credit: Mark Senior

    There are plenty of insider jokes to appeal to fans of the series (a quip about mayonnaise directed at Patrick is met with lots of giggles) but the zany, witty and slapstick moments are entertaining even for those who’ve never watched an episode before. Importantly, the show is full of positive messages for children while also naturally celebrating diversity and inclusivity both in the storylines and casting choices.

    For two-and-a-half joyful hours, you’ll root for all the main characters as they go through their individual growth journeys and learn lessons along the way – we can’t recommend SpongeBob the Musical enough.  You’ll be raving about the show for weeks after and adding your favourite tunes – especially the catchy theme of ‘Bikini Bottom Day’ – to your playlists in no time.

    Credit: Mark Senior

    How To Book Tickets

     The SpongeBob Musical, in partnership with NickWatch, plays at Birmingham Hippodrome until 15 April  and continues touring throughout the UK in Oxford, Dublin, Manchester, Sheffield, Belfast, Cardiff, Blackpool, Peterborough, Wolverhampton, Norwich, Leicester, and Aberdeen.

    The show will run for five weeks during the summer from 26th July to 26th August at London’s Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall.

    For more information on the show and tour dates CLICK HERE.

    To book tickets for select touring venues CLICK HERE.

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