Tom Read Wilson became known to the British public as the charming receptionist, and king of the one-liner, on the hit television show, Celebs Go Dating. What you might not know is that Tom attended the Royal Academy of Music where he studied Musical Theatre, a skill he is now able to showcase playing Squidward in the UK Tour of THE SPONGEBOB MUSICAL which comes to the New Theatre Peterborough this June.
You’re playing Squidward in The SpongeBob Musical, a character known for his somewhat gloomy outlook on life. This is nothing like the sunny person we know you as, has it been fun to tap into someone a bit different?
Enormous fun. And, I must say, I think Squidward is a somewhat appealing curmudgeon, a little in the Walter Matthau mould!
Are you able to tell us a bit about your costume, and how you’re transforming into Squidward?
I think we struck gold with Sarah Mercade and her costume team. The detail in our outfits are quite dazzling. I urge audiences to see if they can count all the subtle political messages about littering the oceans, too: cola cans in the Mayor’s hair, plastic shopping bags in the petticoats and so on!
Can you give us a little overview of the plot of the show?
Bikini Bottom faces existential threat thanks to a long dormant, sort of Vesuvian volcano called Mount Humungous. The three protagonists: Sandy Cheeks, Patrick Star and, of course, SpongeBob, must combine their respective strengths to save the town. Sandy’s (played magnificently by Chrissie Bhima) is her incandescent intellect, Patrick’s (the impossibly endearing Irfan Damani) is strength, but what quality, asks dear SpongeBob (played by the ineffably charismatic Lewis Cornay), does he contribute?
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?
It is a musical of unexpected profundity: The extreme climatic threat is highly topical, and prejudice looms large when the Bikini Bottom residents refuse to listen to wise Sandy Cheeks simply because she belongs to another species. Each song is beautifully crafted and feels utterly bespoke to each character because they are all by different artists. Kyle Jarrow’s libretto is my favourite element. He is a wit of the first order!
The SpongeBob Musical features 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?
I adore the wildly romantic ‘Miss You’ by John Legend. But I feel jolly lucky to be singing ‘I’m Not a Loser’ which feels like a great love letter to the Golden Age of Broadway.
Were you a fan of SpongeBob the cartoon before joining the cast?
I was vicariously. My various sproglets were fans, so it was very much on my radar! I loved it.
People probably know you best from Celebs Go Dating, but what is it about musical theatre that you love, and what made you want to tour with The SpongeBob Musical?
Prior to Celebs Go Dating I was a floundering thespian (if you’ll pardon the fishy pun!). It has been eight years since I last did a play and twelve since I last wore tap shoes, so I curdled a bit at the prospect. But I believe in feeling the fear and doing it anyway. Mercifully, I found myself in the kindest, most hortatory company imaginable.
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?
I sincerely believe there is something for everybody, not least because of the diverse talents that have contributed to this piece. It is visually arresting, it is contagiously joyous, witty, magical, and has something rather special to say about our world and the power of optimism.
Have you ever received any advice throughout your life or career that has really stuck with you?
I think the sagest advice is not to focus unduly on any single juncture in your life. One’s journey only makes sense retrospectively, and often hindsight will show you that something that once felt catastrophic resulted in subsequent joy, so keep on keeping on!