Theatre doesn’t have to be particularly deep or clever to leave an impact on an audience and a musical based on SpongeBob SquarePants and all his fishy friends in Bikini Bottom certainly doesn’t come across as the most high brow of storylines, but the sheer energy, comedy and all around heart that was on display on the stage of Hornsby RSL is something to behold. The production team and committee of Hornsby Musical Society's latest offering should be incredibly proud to have created an all-round feel good, laugh out loud silly romp that not only kids but the inner child inside of everyone can adore.
First time director Sarah Paull must have had a marvellous time bringing the denizens of Bikini Bottom out of the TV and onto the stage with an overly enthusiastic and remarkably talented cast. Together they have managed to create a fishy ecosystem that brings the heart and soul of the television series to life. As someone who hasn’t seen the show for many years, the sheer nostalgia I felt seeing these characters and jokes, even from small side characters in the ensemble, was very refreshing. For a show like this to be successful the cast and the director have to be working in complete tandem and share the same vision, and judging by the audiences’ reactions on opening night, I would say they nailed it.
Of course, as much as the crazy collective cast sets the scene, The SpongeBob Musical would be nothing without its signature Sponge and leading man, Mr SpongeBob SquarePants himself performed by the loveably energetic Alex Giles. It seems to be the trend with new musical theatre productions to not allow their leading actors/actresses a second of break and this show is par to the course, not that you would know watching Alex effortlessly bound from scene to scene with his signature smile and laugh. Alex lands every joke but then just as easily shows a true vulnerability to the character and spoiler alert, his voice in ‘(Just a) Simple Sponge’ is beautifully clear and absolutely heart wrenching, all things I never thought I would be writing about a sponge.
Backing up SpongeBob are his two best friends Patrick Star, the lazily comfortable but strong sea star, and Sandy Cheeks the genius Texan squirrel with a heart of gold, played by Tim Selby and Gabriella Viglione respectively, did I mention this show is weird? Tim has such a beautiful sincereness in Patrick’s stupidity and every little joke he made caused the audience to erupt in laughter. Gabriella has a harder job, playing the straight woman/squirrel against two larger than life characters but she not only holds her own but keeps them in line as any good Texan should and her voice elevated a song I normally skip on the soundtrack, ‘Chop to the Top’ to one of my favourite numbers of the nights.
Honestly, I could write paragraphs about all the cast because they were so enjoyable to watch and all really enveloped their characters, but there are a few particular standouts that I have to mention. Samuel Dobb as Squidward Q. Tentacles played the role with wonderfully depressed pompousness and a lovely gangly spirit and his number
in Act 2, ‘I’m not a loser’ was an absolute highlight of the night. Isaac Owen as Patchy the Pirate was the perfect hype man for the show and really helped get the audience excited for what was in store. Ruby Molnar as Pearl Krabs… What a voice, that’s all I’m going to say, but keep an eye on her name in the future because, wow! Spencer Grout as Sheldon J. Plankton or should I say big guy, was a rap god, I was so impressed, and Georgia Boon made a wonderfully sarcastic companion to him as Karen the Computer. Michael Kingsley performed the role of Eugene H. Crabs with excellent money-minded gruffness and had an accidental moment which got one of the biggest laughs in the show. Finally, I have to mention Jacob Macri as Gary, who had the audience wrapped around his finger with one word.
While this show is more dependent on the acting and the energy that the cast bring to the stage, I can’t not mention the fine work done by Choreographer Lauren Oxenham, Musical Director David Lang and Assistant Musical Director Benjamin Gibiec. Lauren has created some wonderfully cute choreography, which all members of the chorus were able to nail but also had moments for the more experienced dancers to shine. As I already mentioned, ‘I’m not a loser’ was a particular highlight of the show and that was in part to the tap-dancing sea anemones… once again, in sentences I never thought I’d write. David has a cool mastery over a very tight orchestra and the incredible sound that he was getting out of the cast is obviously a testament to his and Benjamin’s work and their dedication to the show. One of my favourite songs on the soundtrack ‘Super Sea-Star Saviour’ was like a wall of sound hitting the audience and I loved it. I should also mention the costumes and set were super cute and really sold the craziness of the show including a beautiful backdrop painted by Bob Williams and cast and crew.
Being opening night with an incredibly short turn-around time for tech there were a few small mistakes that I noticed here and there, but all in all they were minor and did not take away from my enjoyment of the production one bit. I enjoyed it so much in fact that I give it 4 ordinary clusters of kelp and a cult of fanatical sardines out of 5. So, hurry up and get out of the rain and into the sea and get your tickets for SpongeBob the Musical closing on October 9th.
Photos courtesy of Grant Leslie