Irfan Damani as Patrick Star. Pictures: Mark Senior

The Spongebob Musical

Birmingham Hippodrome


Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?

If you know the answer to that then you can probably appreciate the fevered anticipation with which I entered Birmingham Hippodrome to watch the UK premier tour of the Spongebob Musical.

An ardent Spongebob fan, I was intrigued to see how the surreal animated chaos of Bikini Bottom would be transferred from under the sea and on to the stage. I also wondered whether it would feature David Hasslehoff (spoiler alert, it didn’t).

As is often the case with popular TV and Film adaptations for stage, there lurks a begrudging acceptance that it will almost certainly struggle to live up to the original. In this case with the original fare being a very iconic cartoon, the worry was that the struggle would prove too great and I’d have to sit through a right old stinker.

I needn’t have worried, as the production is nothing short of an absolute belter of a show. Crucial to its success is that it retains the heart of the cartoon – it is about love and friendship and pure joy and silliness. I defy anyone not to get swept up in it and if the audience I was part of was anything to go by, everyone had a fantastic time as they were transported to Bikini Bottom.


Lewis Cornay as Spongebob

Director Tara Overfield Wilkinson, choreographer Fabian Aloise, set designer Steve Howell and musical supervisor Mark Crossland have created a vibrant world which engulfs the audience with positivity and fun.

Sarah Mercadé’s costumes do an excellent job at bridging the divide between stage and screen, with the designs taking inspiration from the cartoon’s characters when they could have  merely copied them akin to theme park costumes. The result is that the costumes give the performers a chance to really express themselves and bring their roles to life – helped no end by the clever sound effects.

The cast are top drawer from start to finish. Gareth Gates makes for an entertaining Squidward – while I knew he could sing, I’ve never seen him act before and he has good comic timing and his tone, accent and singing style were spot on for Squidward.  Divina De Campo oozes class as a deliciously fabulous Sheldon J. Plankton and forms a fantastic double act with Hannah Lowther’s Karen the Computer.

Our trio of heroes – Spongebob, Patrick Star and Sandy Cheeks, played by Lewis Cornay, Irfan Damani and Chrissie Bhima respectively, were utterly superb. Lewis and Irfan’s Spongebob and Patrick were impressively true to their characters heritage without lurching towards lazy parody.

Their friendship and its tribulations produced some genuinely moving moments and you found yourself rooting for their inevitable reconciliation. Having said that the Sardines who drove the wedge between the BFFs were a really amusing part of the story arc and very cleverly done. Also clever was the way an ecological message was woven into the storyline and set.  

The rest of the cast were also top drawer – I shan’t namedrop them all but special mentions are due for GMB’s Richard Arnold, who is great value as Perch Perkins, the news anchor; Sarah Freer as Pearl Crabs is a humdinger of a singer and Theo Reece who as Larry the Lobster has some scene stealing moments – one of which was one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a good while.

Spongebob is unusual in that there are so many different contributors and styles to the shows songs such as John Legend’s (I guess I) miss you, BFF by the Plain White T’s and the impressive speed rap in T.I’s’ When the going gets tough which is performed with aplomb by Divina De Campo. There’s even space for David Bowie’s No Control. The result is there’s something for everyone and the show stays fresh and interesting throughout.

Sheldon and Karen

Hannah Lowther as Karen the Computer and Divina de Campo as Plankton.

 Interestingly, this was also a captioned performance – giving the audience the chance to also read what was being sung and said. I thought it added an extra dimension and was not intrusive to the performance itself – indeed, at times it even supplemented it as there were some witty additions hidden within the screen text. That attention to details and care towards every member of the audience pretty much sums up the ethos of the show – it’s a show for everyone.  

The show ends with the indomitable theme tune being sung by cast and audience alike – and it means the whole production ends with togetherness and fun as its cornerstones – just how it should be for all things Spongebob – summed up perfectly by Spongebob’s catchphrase – Best day ever.  

The musical is on for two more days at Birmingham Hippodrome (with two performance on Saturday with the matinee being audio described) – you can buy your tickets here: The SpongeBob Musical

With tickets starting at £24 – it would present a fantastic finale to the Easter Holidays for the whole family – I’m honestly not sure who enjoyed it more, me or my kids.

Theo Clarke


Spongebob will be docking at Wolverhampton Grand 27 June-1 July

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