On a rainy Tuesday evening we headed to the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, or should I say Bikini Bottom, for a very nostalgic performance with everyone's favourite sponge.
As a kid who grew up with Nickelodeon in the 2000s, I was naturally extremely curious about The Spongebob Musical. The television series and movie are no stranger to the odd musical number, all of which tend to be absolute bangers ("Ripped Pants", "The Best Day Ever", "Campfire Song Song", "Goofy Goober Rock" to name but a few) so the transformation from screen to stage seemed quite natural, beyond the fact that it also meant going from animated to live action (hey, if Disney can do it, so can Nickelodeon).
Portraying characters that are not only cartoons originally, but also sea creatures, with the protagonist being a literal sponge, was not going to be easy, but whoever was in charge of costume did a very good job at achieving this without putting them in literal sponge, star, or squid shaped costumes.
The plot was the exact level of convoluted confusion that rings very true of children's tv shows (has anyone watched a little something called The Regular Show because it is absolutely bananas) and could easily have been an episode within the Spongebob series, if not the plot of a second movie.
There's also enough subliminal messaging and subtle political themes to engage and tickle an adult audience, particularly following a global pandemic, not unlike the crisis of the volcano threatening Bikini Bottom - the mayor's house was called 10 Drowning Street after all.
Divina de Campo as Plankton, and their relationship with computer wife Karen, played by Hannah Lowther, was one of the highlights of the show, as was Gareth Gates as Squidward's tap dancing number, who I thought was otherwise criminally underused in the performance.
Lewis Cornay did a fantastic job as Spongebob - it's no easy feat to sing in his unique, nasally accent, but Cornay managed it, bringing the copious amounts of joy and aggressive positivity to the music as was required of him.
The music moved from rock to rap to country to gospel, with songs by Yolanda Adams, Steven Tyler, Aerosmith, Sara Bareilles, and many more. They had the opening credits music play at the end, as well as "Best Day Ever" with some other energetic numbers that would not have worked if not every single person on that stage was putting everything they had into the vocals and choreography. A few favourites had to be "Simple Sponge", "We Only Have Tomorrow" (which had serious "One Day More" Les Mes vibes whether that was intentional or not), and "I'm Not A Loser" (colour us shocked once again that Gareth Gates didn't win Pop Idol all those years ago).
There were notably a few teething issues with sound, but the cast recovered well anytime this occurred and it largely didn't take away from the show.
Is this going to be a show I go back to again and again, up there with the likes of Heathers, Chicago, or Wicked? Honestly, no, but I don't think this is a show that's trying to be like those. In our conversations with Gareth Gates and Divina de Campo ahead of the Irish premiere, they both said it was a show that's a lot of fun, with the goal of making people happy, and judging by the laughter and standing ovation last night, that's exactly what the show achieved.
Would I bring along my future children or recommend it to parents? Yes. And would they have an absolute blast like the hundreds of kids did at last night's performance? Absolutely. I certainly did get a lot of enjoyment and nostalgia out of the performance, and to see that Spongebob is still making as much of a splash with today's youth as it did with mine was quite lovely to see.
All in all, this show is packed with energy, enthusiasm, and is as fun as it is bonkers, just like Spongebob Squarepants himself.
The Spongebob Musical is showing at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre until May 13th.
Header image via Instagram/bordgaisenergytheatre
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