sponge cast 

The Spongebob Musical

Wolverhampton Grand


For some inexplicable reason Bikini Bottom was missed out of not only BBC’s The Blue Planet but Blue Planet II. A big mistake, where else could you find a plankton which had a sort of human growing out of it, or a crab who fathered a whale, an octopus that can tap dance and a sponge that works as a fast order chef – and did we mention the Texas squirrel that lives underwater?

Spongebob is a phenomenon, one of the longest running US animated series ever with merchandising raking in north of $13 billion since its launch in 1999. Its beginnings were rather more humble though, an unpublished comic ten years earlier that marine science educator and illustrator, the late Stephen Hillenburg, had created for his students to teach them about sea life.

And from little acorns, or in this case, barnacles, an empire emerged. The musical has wonderful costumes from Sarah Mercadé – bizarre and delightfully inventive, the set from Steve Howell is a mix of complex and simple, with clever use of video screens, while Fabian Aloise’s choreography and movement is at times quite stunning and always interesting.

And we haven’t got to the cast yet and they were brilliant. The musical, with a book by Kyle Jarrow, sticks to the Nickelodeon TV series formulae of remarkably daft plots, bizarre characters with fun for the kids and with flashes of more grown up humour included – not smut or even risqué, just witty or even daft lines that will tickle older children, such as parents and grandparents.

I must admit to having never seen Ru Paul’s Drag Race so Divina de Campo was an unknown to me, not any more, she is simply superb as Sheldon J Plankton, owner of the Chum Bucket restaurant and Bikini Bottom’s favourite neighbourhood baddy.

While Sheldon plots his take over of the aquatic world with the intention of hypnotising everyone to make them eat the Chum Bucket’s disgusting and inedible food, Tom Read Wilson’s Squidward Q Tentacles is in his element being as miserable as possible in his role as the world’s greatest loser – at least he is good at something - a star stopped from shining by cruel circumstance. A performance of touching misery.

His four leg costume is wonderful and his tap dance with the sardines (don’t ask) is simply wonderful, we know half his legs are false, but to dance with them on? Come on, that shows class.

Then we have Richard J Hunt as Eugene Krabs, proprietor of The Krusty Krab, the best restaurant in town, which is not hard as the other one serves chum in its various forms. Hunt’s Krabs is an eternal, side walking, optimist who sees good (profits) in everything and everybody.

Money is his hobby and obsession except for one thing - he is protective of his daughter, the teenage whale, Pearl Krabs, played by Sarah Freer, who sports a super voice by the way – whale song with real powerful class. That lady has a voice made for soul.

As the plot develops and the towering volcano Mount Humongous is threatening to blow and destroy  Bikini Bottom the residents plot escapes, collecting their treasured possessions or in Eugene’s case, stuffs a suitcase with cash.

And it is up to our three unlikely heroes to save the day, the scientist and underwater squirrel Sandy Cheeks, played brilliantly by Chrissie Bhima, (well I’ve no idea what a squirrel is like under water and so she’s the best I’ve seen), Irfan Dama as the slow, as in glacial, witted Patrick Star, the starfish and, the eponymous Spongebob Squarepants played by Lewis Corney who has enough optimism, enthusiasm and determination to save the day and probably a couple of years beyond that as well.

The trio avoid the avalanche maker employed by Sheldon and his equally scheming wife Karen, played by Hannah Lowther, and it is left to Spongebob to squeeze his way to the summit and halt the impending eruption.

All right, the plot is far fetched, there is more logic in a pebble and the story has more holes than a ten-year-old pub dartboard, but that’s not the point. This isn’t Les Mis, or West Side Story or Guys and Dolls, and it never set out to be. It’s Spongebob, an iconic kid’s cartoon series, with silly plots and bizarre characters brought to the stage in a bright, brash explosion of delightful daftness.

In short it is fun, good, honest, clean wholesome fun, no nasty filthy discharges in these waters, even the most maiden of aunts would not have an attack of the vapours, this is wonderful, family entertainment with no frightening or scary bits, no double entendres, simply glorious entertainment for all ages with a super band in crevices in the rocks at the back of the stage under musical director Marcus Carter-Adams.

Directed by Tara Overfield Wilkinson, Spongebob will be floating with the tides at the Grand to 01-07-23.

Roger Clarke


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