'The Spongebob Musical' review — fun-loving production is the catch of the day

Read our review of The Spongebob Musical, the stage adaption of the iconic children's cartoon, in performances to 27 August at the Queen Elizabeth Hall.

Bea Maynard
Bea Maynard

With some musicals, you have no idea what to expect and making a beloved cartoon sea sponge into a live-action stage production must come with its range of difficulties. But, The Spongebob Musical swam through them and created a fun, loveable show that hooks you until the final splash.

Taking the Nickelodeon cartoon about a bright yellow, innocent sponge named Spongebob Squarepants, who lives in a pineapple (under the sea), was daring. How do you portray an obnoxious clarinet-playing squid? Or a teenage whale whose father is a money-loving crab? But this musical’s characterisation is idealistic. All the way to Spongebob’s driving teacher Mrs. Puff, each beloved character has been wonderfully adapted from the screen to the stage with their own musical flair. You fall in love with every crustacean, fish, and land mammal on stage, rooting for them throughout the surprisingly gripping storyline.

The production sees the residents of Bikini Bottom in a climate emergency. Mount Humungous, the nearby volcano, is about to erupt, throwing the underwater community into a state of mass panic. It’s up to Spongebob and his best friends, the scientist squirrel Sandy Cheeks and naive starfish Patrick Star, to hatch a heroic plan to save their sea home and prove Squarepants isn’t just a simple sponge. Kyle Jarrow has excellently written this plot suitable for any age. The blend of family-friendly humour, including hilarious one-liners and visual gags, with breathtaking talent from the whole company and entertaining visuals, means everything is smooth sailing for the entire family.

The opening song, "Bikini Bottom Day," is a quirky, catchy tune to introduce you to every character, making it an easy dive into the underwater world, regardless of whether you're a dedicated Spongebob fan or have been living under a rock like Patrick. In fact, the entire score is a delight, and with an all-star range of artists, including David Bowie, John Legend, and Cyndi Lauper, all adding their individual musical styles, you can see why each song is such an earworm!

There isn’t just a star-studded creative team. RuPaul’s Drag Race’s Divina De Campo stars as the Krusty Krab nemesis Sheldon J. Plankton with outstanding wit and flair. Her loveable, villain-esque portrayal of the minuscule creature even features a wildly fast rap song called “When the Going Gets Tough” that cannot be missed. Gareth Gates and Tom Read Wilson usually share the uptight Squidward Q Tentacles role, but I saw understudy Blair Anderson, who thrived. He perfectly portrayed the characteristics of the grumpy squid who never gets his chance in the spotlight – until he does!

Every single subaquatic cast member delights in their role. Each work tremendously to seamlessly blend between various creatures, changing from anchovy to pufferfish before you even knew they left the stage. Hannah Lowther as Karen the Computer, Eloise Davies as Mrs. Puff, Rebecca Lisewski as Mayor, Theo Reece as Larry the Lobster, and more all get their moment to showcase their phenomenal theatrical skills individually and whilst working beautifully in unison.

Of course, it would be amiss not to mention the show's star (or sponge). I cannot fathom the difficulty of singing whilst impersonating a high-pitch voice, but Lewis Cornay is phenomenal. He brings the beloved cartoon character to life excellently with outstanding vocals and ideal comedic timing. His power ballad duet with Irfan Damani as Patrick Star called “(I Guess I) Miss You” was a real highlight. I never thought I’d be so invested in a sponge and a starfish having a heartfelt moment, but this show was a first for a lot of things.

One of my favourite elements was the incorporation of single-use plastic into Steve Howell's set and Sarah Mercade’s costume design. The live band’s wigs made out of plastic straws, cups, and old CDs, dresses made out of rubber gloves, and the volcano made out of hundreds of plastic bottles was an expert way to recycle the very thing that is so detrimental to the seas. I couldn’t help thinking the entire show was an overarching metaphor for plastic pollution, but maybe that is thinking too far into a musical about a sea sponge.

Overall, The Spongebob Musical blows all expectations out of the water. This is a production that is certain to leave you with a smile on your face, no matter how old you are. An astonishingly talented cast provides an expertly performed adaption that will have you applauding a squirrel in a spacesuit – don’t you just love musical theatre?

The Spongebob Musical is at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre through 27 August. Book The Spongebob Musical tickets on London Theatre.

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Photo credit: The Spongebob Musical cast. (Photo by Mark Senior)

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