Tuesday, March 5

The Spongebob Musical – Birmingham Hippodrome

I’m not too familiar with Mr Squarepant’s portfolio of work but it seems his previous incarnation was as a wildly successful children’s animated cartoon television series and that, it seems, was what a lot of today’s audience were expecting. Springing from the mind of marine biologist Stephen Hillenburg, Spongebob premiered on Nickelodeon way back in 1999 and, unlike a real person, hasn’t aged since. I’m not going to Google this, but I think we can safely assume he has also appeared as varying dolls, toys, games and nameless and endless merchandising tie-ins. Originally named SpongeBoy, and we can only imagine the days of sweat and toil put in at various board and focus meetings to revise that name, he has proved himself a nice little earner over the years. So, what are we to make of the latest attempt to cash-in on this gleeful little yellow global multicellular organism? Put on you snorkel and join me as we plunge down to Bikini Bottom – look out for sharks!

I’ve never done LSD. I need you to know that about me but had I this is exactly the kind of musical I would write under its influence. Bright, shiny, vibrant, insubstantial and with levels of surrealism which would make Salvador Dali say, “Guys, can we dial it back a bit?” Our eponymous hero is buoyantly played by Leis Cornay, whose pants were disappointedly round, but managed to maintain an endearing and likeable performance throughout. His sidekick, Patrick Star, was played by Irfan Damani who deftly handled the majority of the comedy. Gareth Gates, hardly recognisable under waves of blue rinsed hair, gave us his Squidward Q Tentacles and Divina De Campo was Sheldon J. Plankton. The remaining characters were played, as they say, by members of the cast.

It mainly hinges on the audience’s prior knowledge of the show of which I had zilch so sat bemused amongst a shoal of whooping, wailing, and clapping kids and grown-ups. Like Patrick says in one of the ephemeral numbers, “there’s nothing more fun that mindless entertainment” but had this entertainment had a tad more soul, a nugget more heart, a bit more joy than perhaps it would have weathered its long voyage without some of its passengers a feeling just a little bit queasy. But, hey, it does what it says on the sardine tin and maybe the odd reference to Fiddler on the Roof was wasted even on people old enough to get the odd reference to Fiddler on the Roof. All in all, a fun, well-meaning romp for all ages. Go and tip your toe! https://www.spongebobstage.com/

Reviewer: Peter Kinnock

Reviewed: 12th April 2023

North West End UK Rating: ★★★