“A high-energy, hilarious, highly-entertaining show to see in Assembly Rooms Theatre this week…

Ooook’s production of ‘The Spongebob Musical’ is a high-energy, hilarious, highly-entertaining show to see in Assembly Rooms Theatre this week. The energy and talent on and off stage is a standout among student productions, and it is a must-see for all ages. The cast and crew must be commended for their professionalism and tenacity through a fire alarm in the interval too!

Masterfully directed by Emma Race, the show follows principles Spongebob (Eli Fuller) and friends Patrick (Marco Morgan-Castro), Sandy (Saachi Bajaj), Mr Krabs (Henry Barker), Squidward (Moritz Alfridi), and Plankton (Tyler Smyth), as well as supporting talent, through Bikini Bottom and a journey to save the town from a volcano. Along the way there are interweaving storylines including Plankton and Karen (Emma Henderson) hatching a plan to take over the town for themselves, Patrick becoming an inadvertent saviour for a group of energetic sardines, and Pearl (Jessica Bell) being frustrated with her dad’s obsession with money.

Thomas Rainford as Patchy the Pirate opens the show with a kooky take on a pre-show announcement, which is received well by a pretty much sold-out Assembly Rooms auditorium on opening night. From there, the show launches straight into an arrangement of dynamic numbers and engaging performances, accompanied flawlessly throughout by a fantastic band led by co-musical directors Kyle Ludlow and Dana Al Tajer. The first thing I notice is the intricacy of the set, masterfully designed by Carrie Cheung and their team. Anchors and sea debris hang at the back, with colourful pool-noodle coral lining the stage, and cartoon-accurate set pieces being brought on and off. The costumes are hilariously accurate to the cartoon too, and although there was the odd prop or set piece malfunctioning (Gary the Snail had a joyride) the team behind the costume, props, and set deserve high praise for one of the most impressive productions in those aspects that I’ve seen on a Durham stage. The production team masterfully manage the show, although the odd microphone cut-off typical of any opening night performance detract a little from the action. That being said, the use of sound and mic effects was hilarious, and credit must go to the sound and creative team.

Fuller, Morgan-Castro, and Bajaj as the leading trio are a tour-de-force, displaying impressive vocal and acting chops throughout. Smyth’s Plankton and Barker’s Mr Krabs were particularly impressive too, as they tackled some of the more difficult characters to perform with a gusto and comedic understanding that made the show an absolute joy to watch. The Assembly Rooms stage is beautifully lit up (both literally and figuratively) by everyone that comes on stage, and though the obvious Opening Night nerves and technical glitches are present, the actors stay professional and in-character at all times. The standing ovation at the bows is very well deserved!

The real star of the show is undoubtedly the ensemble. Though at times lacking in confidence in vocals (which is likely down to the odd microphone issue), all its members certainly know how to entertain, with loud-as-life dancing and acting in pretty much every scene of the show, something rare in student productions. Choreographed (and assistant directed) by Anna Woolaghan, the dancing suits each number perfectly, with everything from a glittery tap number (which is very impressive) to a hip-hop style routine where Smyth raps what I later discovered is actually the fastest rap written for Broadway! Dance captain Hannah Kisiala is an ensemble stand-out, leading the crew through group numbers and herself performing a number of impressive tricks, flips, splits, and high-energy solos that elevate the entertainment value of the show and makes you wonder why she’s not on a professional stage. Similar sentiments come to mind when considering vocal performances from Fuller, Morgan-Castro and Bajaj in numbers like ‘Hero is My Middle Name’ and ‘I Guess I Miss You’, which gives further credit to the casting choices of the directing team.

Overall, the Spongebob Musical is a must-see this week – a feel-good show with production value, hilarity, and to top it all off a great soundtrack. Get to the Assembly Rooms this week while tickets last!

By Katie Smith

The Spongebob Musical will continue to show at 19:30 on Friday the 16th and Saturday the 17th of February in the Assembly Rooms Theatre

Photo Credits: Ooook! Productions