'Spamilton': Theater Review
The creator of the long-running satirical series 'Forbidden Broadway' skewers Lin-Manuel Miranda's blockbuster Broadway musical in his latest revue.
Gerard Alessandrini has been spoofing Broadway shows for more than three decades with his popular Forbidden Broadway musical revues, but it took a genuine sensation like Hamilton to get him to focus his attention on a single production. The resulting parody, cheekily dubbed Spamilton, is so infectiously fun that it could easily run as long as its inspiration.
Actually, the writer-director hasn't entirely ignored what else is currently happening on Broadway. He also takes potshots at such shows as The Book of Mormon, Wicked, Aladdin and Phantom of the Opera, among many others. One of the funniest numbers features such unlikely musical theater mash-ups as "An American Psycho in Paris" and "The Lion King & I."
Spamilton is more narratively structured than the Forbidden Broadway romps, telling the tale of a talented Latin writer/composer/performer who wants to save Broadway and takes the world by storm with his groundbreaking hip-hop musical about a Founding Father. The opening number, "Lin Manuel as Hamilton," poses the question, "How does a whipper snapper/Student of rap/And a Latin/Trapped in the middle of a Manhattan flat/Win Broadway accolades/While pther writers kiss the corporate dollar/Grow up to be a hip-hop opera scholar?" It would be all too easy to write a funny review simply by quoting more extensively from the show, but that would only spoil your fun.
The talented five-person ensemble (Juwan Crawley, Chris Anthony Giles, Nicholas Edwards, Dan Rosales, Nora Schell) exuberantly impersonate their Broadway counterparts as Alessandrini sends up many aspects of the already iconic musical, including its lyrical density ("What Did You Miss?"), the surrounding media frenzy ("In the Hype") and the impossibility of scoring tickets. The last subject comes to life in recurring parodies of the beggar woman from Sweeney Todd who here morphs into such familiar Broadway faces as Liza Minnelli and Patti LuPone.
That these divas are impersonated by Christine Pedi will come as no surprise to Forbidden Broadway devotees, since the endlessly versatile performer has demonstrated her talent for channeling just about any female musical star, living or dead, over the show's myriad editions. She was one of two guest performers at the reviewed performance, with the other being Glenn Bassett as the fey King George who informs us, "Straight is back/Soon you'll see/Campy musicals went out with Glee."
The performers are consistently hilarious, but Schell, the sole female member, deserves special props for playing all three Schuyler sisters with the help of hand-puppets.
Spamilton is not quite up to the level of Alessandrini's best work. Clearly enamored of the show he's spoofing, he's pulled his punches here. Many of the barbs are far less pointed than usual, more often inducing smiles than guffaws. It also could be argued that the evening would be more effective if it stuck more closely to its main subject rather than including familiar-feeling gags about the likes of Stephen Sondheim, Audra McDonald and Barbra Streisand. But it's nonetheless a fast-paced and funny 75 minutes, and hey, you can even get tickets for it.
Venue: The Triad, New York
Cast: Juwan Crawley, Chris Anthony Giles, Nicholas Edwards, Dan Rosales, Nora Schell
Creator-writer-director: Gerard Alessandrini
Choreographer: Gerry McIntyre
Costume designer: Dustin Cross
Musical director: Fred Barton
Sound designer: Matt Weber, NY Sound Supply
Presented by Lush Budgett Productions, John Freedson, Christine Pedi, David Zippel