LEWIS Cornay admits that it’s a strange thing to say, given that he’s playing a cartoon character, but he’s being totally serious when he says “of all the roles I’ve done, this does seem like the most ‘me’ role.”

Lewis is bringing the weird, wacky and wonderful world of SpongeBob Squarepants to Manchester Opera House in SpongeBob the Musical which proved a massive hit when it premiered on Broadway and is now enjoying its first tour of the UK.

“I know it can sound trite when people say’ it’s a show for all ages’ but this show definitely is,” said Lewis.

Messenger Newspapers: Cast of SpongeBob the Musical (Picture: Mark Senior)

Featuring many of the characters from the cult TV cartoon, SpongeBob the Musical see Bikini Bottom threatened by a volcano which is about to erupt leaving SpongeBob and his friends to save the undersea world.

The show features an amazing array of songs, all specially written for the production, from the likes of Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Cyndi Lauper and The Flaming Lips plus songs by David Bowie.

“It’s a proper Broadway musical,” said Lewis. “It’s got the classic hero story and it’s also got these incredible songs written for our show.

“A lot of the artists got involved because they loved the cartoon. I heard that David Bowie wanted to be involved because he was such a fan.

“The calibre of musicians is amazing and the songs blend so well together into the narrative. It’s not a jukebox musical. There’s a real story of which the songs are a part.”

Messenger Newspapers: Lewis Cornay as SpongeBob (Picture: Mark Senior)

Lewis is one of the rising young stars of British theatre having performed in The Book of Mormon and the UK tour of Titanic, the Musical. He was awarded an Offie for Best Leading Performance in a musical for John and Jen, a role he played on both sides of the Atlantic.

He is also a writer and songwriter.

“I am very lucky to be part of the creative sector, whether that’s through performing or writing,” he said. “But with this show what’s nice is the feeling of being supported. The whole team are doing everything they can to make it the best that it can be.

“When it comes to writing, I do feel more pressure on my shoulders. With this there is pressure because I’m leading a show and that is quite scary but there is something nice about knowing it’s your job to take the material and put our own spin on it. That is really freeing.”

Lewis says that he’s a relative newcomer to the delights of SpongeBob.

“I was aware of the cartoon but it’s not something I’ve really ever sat down and watched,” he said. “So really I was new to the world of SpongeBob and I think that has helped me. I’ve come to the show as an adult and perhaps I can appreciate the humour from a different perspective. I had no preconceived ideas about any of it which again I think is good. It’s not interesting for an audience just to watch cartoon character on stage, they might as well do that at home.”

On stage Lewis transforms in SpongeBob, partly through the astonishing voice he has developed for the character.

“It’s a combination of a five-year-old boy and an 80-year-old man,” he laughed. “The real challenge was when it came to singing as there was real reference as to how SpongeBob would sound. I tone it down a bit when I’m singing but kept the essence of the character.”

With the obvious references to global warning and featuring a mayor who refuses to accept that there is any kind of problem facing Bikini Botton, SpongeBob is extremely topical.

“It’s a show which celebrates being your most authentic self,” said Lewis, “and I think that’s why it resonates with audiences, particularly with late teens.

“We are in a world that can be so overwhelming with messages from social media or even the government which leave you feeling as though you don’t quite know where you fit; this show creates a community and encourages you to be true to who you are.

“It’s also incredibly funny and it really is a show that caters for every audience member regardless of their age.

“It’s also a show that really suits touring. It never feels stagnant and it’s great meeting new audiences and seeing how they will react. Different theatres respond differently. The show always lands but it can be in different places and we are really intrigued how it will go down in Manchester.”

SpongeBob the Musical, Manchester Opera House, until Sunday, May 21. Details from www.atgtheatres.com