Review: The Spongebob Musical at The Opera House is ‘full of big numbers and huge laughs’

Get ready to dive into the zany and hilarious world of Spongebob Squarepants and his pals in the musical adaptation of this animated hit.

I have always had a soft spot for the animated hit Spongebob Squarepants and his pals who live in Bikini Bottom, as it has always been anarchic, quirky, and very funny and it also shows children the importance of accepting people for who they are without hitting them over the head with a coral.

This musical version has the feel of the big old Broadway show, due to some of the big numbers which are catchy and memorable. Yet the zany feel and the simplicity of the animated series which is popular with all ages, remains.

Many of us still have memories of lockdown, from the queues in supermarkets, due to the endless news updates and the ever-changing rules.

As Spongebob and his friends try to fathom how to deal with a soon-to-be erupting volcano, which would signal the end for them all, Kyle Jarrow’s book sends up the loss of perspective and rational thought, alongside the toilet roll panic buying, whilst retaining the recognisable character traits that the fans know and love.

Lewis Cornay is sheer perfection as our underwater hero with the square pants, Hawaiian shirt and McFly’s Tom Fletcher’s mannerisms. You engage with his plight, and his friendship with lovable Patrick Star (played by the brilliant Irfan Damani) is beautifully explored.

Chrissie Bhima is Sandy Cheeks the squirrel and she is in fine voice even though much of the time, she is reduced to keep explaining the crazy plot developments, she has great stage presence.

Divina De Campo steals many a scene as Sheldon J. Plankton and avoids going full-on panto mode, which gives her villain more than is on the page. With Hedwig and the Angry Ince at HOME, a stage star was born and this show confirms what we already knew, De Campo is a breath of fresh air and has energy to burn and vocals to match.

Tom Read Wilson does well as Squidward Q Tentacles, and in a tap dancing number with an excellent ensemble is having fun and it shows. Richard J.Hunt plays Eugene Krabs like an old-school comedian and there are times when you feel you are watching a piece of animated film, as his mannerisms are spot on.

There is not a weak link in this show and the entire cast earns their money and then some, as they keep their energy levels incredibly high from start to finish.

There are problems with the sound mix though, and this means every song feels like it is turned up to the max and it feels a bit too full on at times.

I longed for the show to give the audience quieter moments, whereby we could get to know the characters a bit more, as we do in the series. I could have done more water to dilute the feeling that I was drinking a gallon of Pepsi Max, as there are times when you just long for a pause or a moment to reflect.

There is a poignant moment between Squarebob and Patrick and I wanted more of that, as you can see young kids engaging with that, just as much as the slapstick and big production numbers. And for a show with a limited plot, it does feel a tad too long.

This is because the moments where a pirate begins to converse with the audience are overlong and the fans want more sponge and less bobbing about.

Steve Howell’s set design is excellent and less really does give more, as it transports the audience under the sea and it looks beautiful.

The songs written by big names including John Legend, Cyndi Lauper and The Flaming Lips have the heart and soul, to lift you. They don’t all hit the sweet spot but there are more than a few standout numbers.

As the show comes to a close, don’t be surprised if even the most discerning young person you bring along ditches their phone and rises for a standing ovation.

On the night I attended, kids, teens and older fans were enamoured and enjoyed the underwater adventures of these lovable characters and they all rose to their feet, as they came up for air. If you are feeling crabby this week, it is highly recommended for you and your shoal of little or big fishes.

The Spongebob Musical is at the Opera House until 21st May and can be booked by clicking here.


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