Review by Bella Wellstead
Bikini Bottom is in peril. The long-dormant volcano Mount Humongous threatens to erupt, decimating the city. With only a little over a day until the apocalypse, the community of Bikini Bottom is torn in two. Evil genius Sheldon J. Plankton convinces the Bottomians to evacuate as part of an elaborate mass-hypnotism plot. As the eruption draws nearer, Spongebob Squarepants and his friends endeavour to stop the eruption with the power of science, saving the city and bringing its people back together. Directed by Sarah Paull and David Lang, Hornsby Musical Society’s The Spongebob Musical is unwaveringly exuberant and fun.
The curtains open on a vibrant Bikini Bottom day. Spongebob snoozes at the foot of his bright yellow pineapple abode. To his right towers the imposing statue head that his neighbour Squidward Tentacles calls home. Next to it, the rock under which Spongebob's best friend Patrick Star lives. A painted backdrop hangs behind them, vivid blue and bespeckled with bubbles. Simple flower outlines stamp the watery expanse, and a line of cylindrical metal dwellings stand slick and silver in the foreground. The art of Nickelodeon’s Spongebob Squarepants cartoon is brought skillfully onto the Hornsby RSL stage, submerging us in the delightful undersea world of Bikini Bottom.
Lighting is, on the whole, excellent. A blue-yellow wash dominates the show, enhancing the cheerful subaquatic setting. A sinister green haze follows Plankton around as he snickers and schemes. Strong red spotlights hit Spongebob’s boss Mr. Krabs as he belittles his employee. A pink wash floods the stage when his daughter Pearl sings. As the eruption of Mount Humongous draws nearer, Bikini Bottom is shaken by a series of tremors that are punctuated by flashing yellow floor lights and a dark purple, doom-heavy wash.
Audio was unfortunately less seamless, with various lines lost in the time it took for operators to switch between mic feeds. The live orchestra, however, was magnificent. Led by musical director David Lang and assistant musical director Ben Gibiec, these performers were instrumental in establishing the show’s jovial underwater ambiance.
Choreography by Lauren Oxenham was bold, lively, and ambitious. This was largely a strength – engaging the audience with the jubilation and camaraderie of the Bikini Bottom community. However, this ambition was also occasionally to the show’s detriment. Midway through the musical, Patrick is deified by a school of desperate Bottomians searching for a saviour. This results in a spirited all-ensemble number that leaves cast members visibly exhausted and panting into their microphones. Despite this, it must be said that the choreography, and the performers carrying it out, are impressive.
Alex Giles is brilliant as Spongebob Squarepants, delivering the character’s bubbly sincerity with skill. Bounding across the stage, his energy is palpable. Giles maintains Spongebob’s nasally shrill throughout the show – including, impressively, during every musical number.
This was something that various cast members struggle with – breaking their accents when needing to focus on belting a high note. However, overall, the accent work in The Spongebob Musical is accomplished. Mr. Krabs’ throaty, roiling delivery and Squidward’s sniffly monotone are particularly notable. In fact, Samuel Dobb’s Squidward is a stand-out (both figuratively and literally – the actor towered above the rest of the ensemble). Hands flat by his sides and an extra set of legs bending out from the back of his trousers, his physicality is comedically rigid. This amplifies the humour of his cynical severity. Also memorable is Tim Selby’s Patrick Star – both earnest and cuddly – and Ruby Molnar as Pearl – who sings enchantingly, with unparalleled strength. Vincent Huynh was stellar – portraying Perch Perkins with cleverness and audacity as well as enthusiastically handling a multitude of ensemble roles.
Ultimately, Hornsby Musical Society’s The Spongebob Musical was a fantastic, energetic romp. It is well worth snagging a ticket before they close on Sunday October 9.
Image Credit: Grant Leslie