Review: The SpongeBob Musical

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Transported to the world of Bikini Bottom, all summative stresses faded away. I was sceptical at how the Assembly Rooms Theatre would cater to such an ambitious set-reliant production, but I was blown away. The set looked like it was pulled right out of a Broadway production. Carrie Cheung (production designer) is responsible for creating such an innovative and engaging space, that all performers use as a tool to enhance the imagery of their characters. Without such a vibrant backdrop, the production would have felt less connected to the famous animated series. One of the standout elements of the show was the utilisation of sound effects to imitate being under the sea, which is quite a challenge. However, as SpongeBob says, “with imagination, you can be anything you want” and this certainly rang true to the believability of both the sound and lighting effects, which appropriately replicated the creative vision. Much praise must go to the production team (Hamish Campbell, and Adams Yeung) for truly executing such an abstract production, with both humour and skill shining through every cue.

Not enough recognition can be given to the entire creative team, for fostering authentic interpretations of beloved characters on a Durham stage. Director (Emma Race, assisted by Anna Woolaghan) had a unique task in bringing animated characters to life, they truly succeeded in transporting the bubbly nature of SpongeBob from screen to stage. I was astounded at how slick the show felt, whilst every scene kept an uplifting and silly undertone which left the audience in stitches – none of it came across as messy. This is partly down to the clearly well-rehearsed choreography by Woolaghan, which was both fun and intricate and successfully lent into the goofiness of the light-hearted story. I would especially like to praise the tap numbers, which were unexpected, but much appreciated. They really got the audience clapping along. Likewise, Co-Musical Directors ( and Dana Al Tajer, assisted by Carl Murta) led another highlight of the show, both the vocals and the band were expectational. The harmonies were nothing short of perfection, and all the band deserve the greatest praise, for managing to keep the energy up of both the performers and the audience. Specifically, the vocal arrangements of ‘No Control’ and ‘When the Going Gets Tough’ were dynamic and goosebump inducing, with both the band and performers working together, to produce musical excellence.

Not enough recognition can be given to the entire creative team, for fostering authentic interpretations of beloved characters on a Durham stage

It would be worth mentioning the cast and crew faced unprecedented difficulties during the interval tonight, with the fire alarm leading to an evacuation of the theatre. For most performers, this would throw them off, but not for this cast and crew. Luke Mallon (executive producer) stepped up brilliantly and made sure the audience were kept in the loop, and were still eagerly waiting for the excitement of Act Two to begin. Once back inside the theatre, Thomas Rainford (as the Captain) led the charge, with incredible characterisation that kept the audience on their toes, not to mention the incredible vocals he displayed in ‘Poor Pirates’. shone in all the dance numbers, with her striking moves, including (many) impressive worms, all while providing vibrant facial expressions. Emma Clarke (the mayor) really came into her own in the dance numbers and shone with incredible characterisation, especially in the final scene. Similarly, and stood out in many ensemble numbers, with humorous interjections and endless energy. Emily Power (Larry the Lobster) was especially humorous, with hilarious reactions to other characters. The occasional mic issue is expected when dealing with such a big cast with so many complex costumes, but this barely impacted the overall delivery of the production.

The harmonies were nothing short of perfection, and all the band deserve the greatest praise, for managing to keep the energy up of both the performers and the audience

The biggest kudos must go to Eli Fuller (SpongeBob) who led the show with ease, professionalism and a relatability that the audience truly adored. I don’t think you could find a better SpongeBob, the genuine joy of Fuller’s SpongeBob, was heart-warming, not to mention Eli’s stellar belt which often underpinned the ensemble numbers. Likewise, Jess Bell (Pearl) was another standout, with powerhouse vocals that really didn’t even need a mic, paired with likeable charisma. Marco Morgan (Patrick Star) and Saachi Bajaj (Sandy) were an exceptional duo who really understood their characters, they both have incredible voices, and both nailed difficult accents which sounded refined. This lies with the magnificent directing, clearly worked with all performers on constructing unique interpretations, whilst maintaining the identifiable traits of the animated characters. This was seen in Moritz Afridi (Squidward) and ’s (Krabs) soulful characterisations, which felt like authentic but recognisable portrayals of renowned characters. Tyler Smith (Plankton) and Emma Henderson (Karen) were another magnificent duo, they had entertaining chemistry and excelled vocally. Costumes were outstanding throughout the show ( and Kavya Raghuran), and props were just as professional and creative as the set (Anna Brzezinski, and Anna Choi) which made the show a joy to witness.

To quote SpongeBob again it was ‘the best day ever’, getting to experience a short snippet of life in Bikini Bottom (even with the fire alarm). I urge all Durham students to venture under the sea, not only are you helping charity, but you will leave feeling uplifted by the power of friendship.

Image credit: Ooook! productions

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