East AngliaMusicalReview

The SpongeBob Musical – Theatre Royal, Norwich

Reviewer: Lu Greer

Book: Kyle Jarrow
Director: Tara Overfield Wilkinson

Stephen Hillenburg’s SpongeBob Squarepants is a show that has played in more than 170 countries and has been running for over twenty years, which in of itself is a huge achievement, but when it comes to putting on a musical it has the potential to cause a sinking feeling. This show needs to be able to cater to children growing up watching SpongeBob right now, as well as the grownups who were watching it twenty years ago and are showing up for the nostalgia. A tricky task indeed, but thankfully one that proves surmountable for the residents of Bikini Bottom.

In this feature length, live action, episode of SpongeBob we find the residents in a race against time against a volcanic eruption as they try to save their town. All of the iconic favourites grace the stage here with Lewis Cornay taking on the titular role, delivering a high-octane performance which is almost eerily similar to the cartoon sponge himself. Joining him as Sandy Cheeks, Chrissie Bhima brings a karate kicking energy to match, along with a rather unexpected earnestness. Indeed, the whole cast are excellent here, genuinely becoming the aquatic cartoon characters and delivering every musical number to perfection.

It is the musical itself here, that star of the show here, however. With original songs from just about every big name in rock and pop including Cyndi Lauper, David Bowie, Aerosmith, and John Legend the cast each get a chance to show off their vocal range as well as their blending harmonies. There is no singular standout quintessential song of this musical, with so many of them becoming instant classics. Something must be said though, about (Just a) Simple Sponge, which takes the concept of simple staging and runs with it; it is visually magical, and Cornay’s performance is genuinely captivating.

The set (Steve Howell) and costumes (Sarah Mercadé) combine to really add to the world of bikini bottom, with the inspired used of neon, bubbles, and recycled materials. The consistent presence of plastics in the costumes and sets serve as a constant reminder of the precarious position of our oceans without taking away from the visual effects. The choice to have the band, The Electric Skates, present throughout the show as well as eventually becoming part of the performance is also a successful one, really serving to make the music a character of its own throughout.

SpongeBob The Musical is a show with a rather shallow plot and an incredible depth of talent in its performers, staging, and musicians which come together to make something rather special.

Runs Until: 8 July 2023

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The South East team is under the editorship of Nicole Craft. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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