Are you ready, Blackpool?
I can’t hear you!
The Spongebob Musical splashed onto stages in April as it embarked on its UK & Ireland Tour and this week it finds its home at Blackpool Opera House. But does Bikini Bottom fit in so close to The Blackpool Tower? Well, you’ll have to read to find out.
The Spongebob Musical tells the story of the impending threat to Bikini Bottom and its residents that we all know and love as a nearby volcano is soon to erupt if somebody doesn’t take action. So, the question is who will save the day and protect Bikini Bottom and SHOULD YOU TRUST THE GOVERNMENT?
Firstly, it is a rarity to find a musical that has various aspects that complement one another so well. But it has to be said that this musical understands exactly what it wants to do – from the set (Steve Howell) to lighting (Ben Bull) to costume (Sarah Mercadè) and even down to the live sound effects which help with the humour it truly is a refreshing display of all those puzzle pieces fitting perfectly together. Obviously, alongside a top-quality, talented cast.
Lewis Cornay (he/him) takes on the lead role of Spongebob Squarepants with enthusiasm, energy and a nostalgic vocal play on the character we all know and love. ‘Simple Sponge’ was a clear demonstration of how all these departments mentioned above work together so well with choreography, props and costume strongly supporting his performance – keeping younger audience members engaged. Divina De Campo (she/her) displays her theatre experience with confidence in the role of Sheldon J. Plankton boasting an evil laugh that will be sure to put the best pantomime villains to shame. But tonight’s stand out performance for me goes to Richard J Hunt (he/him) in the role of Eugene Krabs who is consistent, clear and well articulated in his portrayal. It should be commended that this cast display some of the best vocals I have heard in a while with power, passion and punch bringing the original songs from artists such as Cyndi Lauper to life. It was great to see the connection between the story and COVID-19 finding a way to engage the older audience members in the material. In addition to this it is great to see the actor/musicians with such vibrant performance and engagement throughout – it is something that for me has lacked in other musicals, but they are brilliant to watch.
However, I feel like I should ask the question again that I used to shout back at the TV as a child watching Spongebob Squarepants. Are you ready, Blackpool? (that wasn’t the official line but for the purposes of this review let’s say it is)
Unfortunately, Blackpool was clearly not ready for The Spongebob Musical. It was clear to see that from tonight’s opening performance that the thing missing was the audience. The Blackpool Opera House holds a capacity of 2,812 but from the stalls it was clear that there was, in my opinion a disappointing turn out for this cast. I am unsure of the reason for this, and I truly hope this is not a reoccurring theme throughout the tour as this cast really tried to dig deep and make up for the lack of energy from the audience in a venue of this size and at times there was some moments that felt flat. But this was not down to the fault of the cast, and I hope that for a town that is known for its glitzy ballroom dancing and illuminations that they get behind this show and take a trip to Bikini Bottom because they will not regret it. I suppose you do have to take into consideration the target audience but as a nostalgic adult who used to have Spongebob Squarepants bedding I would have expected a little more.
The Spongebob Musical is colourful, contagious and comforting providing full for all ages. So, whether it’s Blackpool or another stop along its UK and Ireland Tour make sure you don’t miss your chance to visit Bikini Bottom and all the characters you know and love.
Playing until 17th June, https://www.spongebobstage.com/tour-dates
Reviewer: Daniel Cox (he/him)
Reviewed: 13th June 2023
North West End UK Rating: