“I Seem To Have Acquired Two Extra Legs” – Gareth Gates Discusses Squidward Role in SpongeBob Musical at Wales Millennium Centre

Gareth Gates who shot to fame in 2002 coming runner up in Pop Idol and selling over 5-million records, is now a star of the stage with his latest role as Squidward in the hit family show, The SpongeBob Musical which comes to Wales Millennium Centre from June 6 to June 10.

You’re playing Squidward in The SpongeBob Musical, a character known for his somewhat gloomy outlook on life. Is that anything like you, or have you enjoyed tapping into someone quite different?

He is absolutely nothing like me, but that’s why I love playing the role so much. We are each so different in our outlook on life that escaping into his character is a really enjoyable change!

What’s really been fun about him is that he tap-dances, and I’ve never tapped in my life! I had three lessons before rehearsal started, and so they threw me straight in the deep end, pardon the pun. However, I’m really thrilled to have learnt a brand-new skill.

Gareth Gates will play ‘Squidward’ in The SpongeBob Musical. Photo Barry Martin

Are you able to tell us a bit about your costume, and how you’re transforming into Squidward?

My costume looks amazing, and I seem to have acquired two extra legs! As if tap dancing with two wasn’t hard enough, now I have another pair to contend with.

What’s so brilliant about the costumes in SpongeBob are that they’re so vibrant and bright and really catch your eye. We are the citizens of Bikini Bottom, as you know and love them, but with a bit of a twist for the stage.

Can you give us a little overview of the plot of the show?

Essentially, the story is about a community coming together. A volcano under the sea is about to erupt and completely destroy the town of Bikini Bottom. SpongeBob is the only citizen who remains optimistic about the survival of their little community.  In the face of adversity, the people of Bikini Bottom work together to try and save the day.

It’s not just a feelgood show, but also heart-warming and touching and will 100% appeal to both kids and adults alike.

The musical received an amazing 12 Tony Award nominations when it played on Broadway, what do you think makes it such a great show, and what are you enjoying most about it?

There are two elements of the show that I absolutely love. The first is the music, written by so many huge artists, they’re all so catchy. The second is the script – it’s so funny and I think that’s definitely what will appeal to the adults, and people who grew up loving SpongeBob.

Irfan Damani will play ‘Patrick’ in The SpongeBob Musical.

The music of the show includes original songs by some incredible artists including Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Panic! At The Disco, John Legend and Sara Bareilles. Has it been fun to explore the styles of these different songs, and do you have a favourite to perform or watch?

The line up of composers for this show is mind-blowing! My favourite song to perform is my big number at the end of act two. It’s called ‘I’m not a loser’. It’s very typical of a Broadway hit, think 42nd Street meets Chicago! And I get to be the centre of it all!

Were you a fan of SpongeBob the cartoon before joining the cast?

I have a daughter who is 13, and she used to watch it when she was little and so I was very aware of it, and I’ve always loved its humour.

You shot to fame when you were young as a singer on Pop Idol, and now you’re a hugely celebrated musical theatre performer. How did you initially find the transition into theatre, what sort of new skills and experiences did you pick up?

The first thing I ever did was perform in The King and I at the Alhambra Theatre in Bradford at the age of five. And then, at the age of eight, I played a leading role in a school production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which is when I discovered I could sing.

Then in 2009, I had an audition with Andrew Lloyd Webber himself who offered me the leading role of Joseph in the West End. This then led onto me playing Marius in the brand-new 25th Anniversary of Les Misérables, then the same role in the West End version alongside Samantha Barks and Lucie Jones. I’ve also been lucky enough to tour the UK in Footloose and Legally Blonde. It’s been an incredible journey throughout my whole life really, and I’m very grateful for the opportunities. The transition from pop music to theatre was actually quite natural as this is where it all really began for me.

Lewis Cornay will star in The SpongeBob Musical. Photo Barry Martin

Do you enjoy touring the UK?

I absolutely love touring. You get to take this piece of work that you have worked so hard on, with such a wonderful team of people and introduce it to lots of different parts of the country.

Who would enjoy coming to see The SpongeBob Musical? Is it for children, families, the young at heart, people who loved the cartoon as a kid and want a bit of nostalgia?

The show really is for the entire family. The vibrant aesthetics of the show really will appeal to the kids as well as it’s infectious energy. Whilst the music and scripts will really draw in all of the adults in the audience, especially if you loved SpongeBob when you were younger!

Have you ever received any advice throughout your life or career that has really stuck with you?

Everyone I’ve ever spoken to that has been successful in their life as always mentioned work ethic. Eight shows a week is tough, and you’ve really got to be cut out for it to make it in this industry. The more you challenge yourself, the more you’ll achieve.  

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