Irfan Damani is currently playing Patrick Star in the UK premiere of The SpongeBob Musical, alongside a cast including Lewis Cornay and Chrissie Bhima as SpongeBob SquarePants and Sandy Cheeks respectively. The musical is running until 27th May at Sheffield Theatres, before heading to Belfast Grand Opera House on 30th May, continuing around the UK until ending in September at Newcastle Theatre Royal. Over Christmas 2022, Irfan was performing in The New Musketeers and The Aliens That Saved Christmas at Trinity Theatre, and he has been in the cast of two David Walliams stage adaptations, when he played Raj/Flavio in Gangsta Granny for his first tour last year, and he made his West End debut as Raj/Teacher in Billionaire Boy. For his first professional job, Irfan was part of ISHQ the Musical at Sadler’s Wells, and he has screen experience, which has seen him film for Breeders, EastEnders and Bollywood feature film Namaste England. Speaking with Irfan, he answered our questions about performing as Patrick Star in the UK premiere of The SpongeBob Musical, his time at the Trinity Theatre last Christmas and being part of the David Walliams adaptions Billionaire Boy and Gangsta Granny.
You are currently touring as Patrick Star in the UK premiere of The SpongeBob Musical, what is the show like to be part of?
It’s amazing! Every show I do I’m in awe that I get to play this iconic character that I grew up watching. We have so much fun on stage, especially Lewis Cornay, who plays SpongeBob, and I.
What is Patrick like to play and how did you feel finding out you’d booked the role?
Honestly, Patrick is more complex than what you think. As much as he is a bit dim, he loves his friends. Loyalty and friendship comes a long way for Patrick, so, for me, it’s all about remembering my relationship with my close friends and what I’d do for them.
It felt great. I was so grateful to the casting team for giving me this opportunity.
How was it preparing to open in the UK premiere production and what is it like seeing the audience response to the musical?
The rehearsal process was intense, but so much fun. Tara Overfield Wilkinson (the director) and Fabian Aloise (choreographer) made the room a safe space for us to play, have fun and also make mistakes.
Do you have a favourite scene or song to perform and how is it bringing the SpongeBob story to stage?
Yes – my favourite song/scene to perform is Super Sea Star Savior because it’s all about ME! Joking aside, the ensemble are AMAZING in it, sometimes I just find myself watching them in awe.
What is it like working alongside the rest of the cast, which includes Lewis Cornay as SpongeBob SquarePants and Chrissie Bhima as Sandy Cheeks?
The team of Tres are so much fun. Lewis, Chrissie and I hit it off the first time we met and we all knew this was going to be a blast. We’re constantly playing, making each other laugh and tell the story really well. The rest of the cast are awesome as well, they have SO much talent and we all tell the story amazingly.
Some of the cast performed at The Theatre Café in March, what was this like to do?
Great fun! It was so nice to just sit and sing some of the songs we had been rehearsing for weeks and be able to see how people reacted to them.
How is the tour going so far and what are you looking forward to most for continuing in the show, which is running until September?
Tour’s fun! I love touring, I love seeing new places and meeting new people. So excited to keep on touring and being in London for a month over summer!
Why would you recommend booking tickets to see The SpongeBob Musical and who do you think it will appeal to?
Because it is PURE bonkers! It’s exactly what we need in today’s climate and it’s suitable for everyone, from kids to adults.
Over Christmas 2022, you were performing at Trinity Theatre in both The New Musketeers and The Aliens Who Saved Christmas, can you tell us about this?
This was great, but challenging. It was an old school ‘rep’ season, and doing two polar opposite shows was definitely taxing, but it was so much fun. Winnie Southgate, who wrote Aliens (who was also the director, and in it with me), was so much fun to perform with as it was a two-hander. With Musketeers, I learnt so much about comedy, and the importance of comedic timing and how audiences react to laughter and gags.
How was your time playing Raj/Flavio in the UK Tour of Gangsta Granny last year and how did you find the experience touring for the first time?
Raj was fun! I played Raj beforehand, so it was quite simple for me to play. Flavio, however, was a different story and totally out of my comfort zone! I had so much fun doing this! I loved touring, it was so nice to see new places in the UK and Ireland that I’d never been before.
What are some of your favourite memories from making your West End debut in Billionaire Boy at the Garrick Theatre as Raj and Teacher and what is it like being part of David Walliams stage adaptations?
For me, this was a big moment because we went from performing it to cars in the back of a lorry to London’s WEST END! It was surreal to do both. Being a part of Walliams’s stage shows are so interesting and refreshing. You learn so much about comedy, but also the connection that audiences have with his characters and the importance of his stories.
We understand you performed in ISHQ the Musical at Sadler’s Wells, how was this?
This was such a huge learning curve for me, as it was my professional debut straight out of drama school. The process was so much fun, but was so challenging as I had to play someone so much older than me! But performing at Sadler’s Wells was incredible.
Was there anything that encouraged you to train at London College of Music and how was your time there?
My time at LCM was fantastic. I met my friends for life and learnt so much about myself as a person and as a performer. I thoroughly enjoyed the acting through song concept behind the course.
You have also filmed for screen in shows such as Breeders and EastEnders, and on commercials, can you tell us about some of the screen projects you’ve worked on?
EastEnders and Breeders were so much fun, and it was such an eye-opening experience to work on such a fast-paced set. I also played ‘muscle man’ in the Bollywood feature film, Namaste England. Even though I only had a few lines, it was amazing to see how a feature film works and all the clogs you need for it to be amazing.
How did you get into acting and was it something you always wanted to do?
It wasn’t something I wanted to do at all! Not till I was 17. I got forced into a Les Misérables audition at my school, and fell in love with musical theatre from there.
What are some of your favourite theatre shows to watch and which would you like to see that you haven’t done so as yet?
Oh gosh! I love so many shows. I can’t name them all! I would LOVE to see Parade, with Ben Platt.
How do you like to spend your time away from your performing?
I love going to the gym! It’s my happy place. Exercise is so important to me mentally and physically, and it puts me in such a good mood!
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