Any parent of children who grew up with the SpongeBob Cartoon on television will be familiar with the title song.
It consisted of just one chorus shrieked over and over again: “SpongeBob SquarePants! SpongeBob SquarePants!! SpongeBob…SQUAREPANTS!!!”
It is set in the undersea community of Bikini Bottom where a variety of seafood and crustacea – SpongeBob (Lewis Cornay), dim starfish Patrick Star (Ifran Damani) and the Eeyore-like Squidward (Gareth Gates/Tom Read Wilson at selected performances) – have adventures.
Kyle Jarrow’s musical may not win awards in spite of songs from John Legend, Cyndi Lauper and Flaming Lips but its fidelity to the SpongeBob universe is impressive.
Mad as a box of frogs, it tells a story of the two warring cafe owners – Eugene Krabs (Richard J Hunt) and evil Sheldon J Plankton (Divina De Campo) – and the threat to Bikini Bottom from an undersea volcano that only a bubble scientist can prevent.
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Trouble is, the scientist in question is a squirrel (Chrissie Bhima) and not welcomed by many of the community.
Halfway through this utterly bonkers, hallucinatory musical I cottoned on to the themes running through it – the power of friendship, the need to embrace creatures of a different species/race/colour and the appliance of science.
Gareth Gates is hysterical as the four legged Squidward, who has a show stopping tap dance with an ensemble of sea creatures; drag diva De Campo is spectacular as the evil Sheldon and Hannah Lowther makes the most of his/her on off girlfriend Karen the Computer (don’t ask).
In bright yellow motley with nerdy glasses Lewis Cornay is terrific as Spongebob himself, accelerating from squishy nerd to reluctant hero with a bouncy confidence; his big number I’m Not a Simple Sponge is accompanied by floating sponges in the style of Prague’s Black Light Theatre.
To hijack a Tom Wolfe title, it’s a kandy-koloured, tangerine-flake musical, baby. The most fun you can have without an aqualung.
The SpongeBob Musical, QEH Southbank until August 27. Tickets: 020 3879 9555 (spongebobstage.com)
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