Spamilton: An American Parody
The Triad Theater, NYC, March 9, 2017
Reviewed by Marilyn Lester for Cabaret Scenes
Photos: Carol Rosegg
Spamilton: An American Parody is simply genius – sprung from the agile and brilliant mind of Gerard Alessandrini, the wiz behind 30 years of the ultimate spoof-fest, Forbidden Broadway. With all of the mega-buzz and hyper-activity around Hamilton: An American Musical, it was only natural that Alessandrini would turn his attention to Lin-Manuel Miranda and his revolutionary hip hop musical, a show that’s caused one of the biggest stirs in Broadway history. At its core, Spamilton plays beautifully on the concept of revolution: of the American Revolution at the center of Hamilton, and of Miranda’s revolution concerning “the dead art form of the Broadway musical.” Spamilton is more than the sum of its parts, a hilarious mash-up of the Miranda success plus a slew of other classic and contemporary musicals (Gypsy, Man of La Mancha, West Side Story, Ragtime and more), brilliantly integrated into the crazy-fun story line. Although it debuted last summer, Spamilton, after several extensions and some experimentation, has only recently been “set”; the show is now an open run, with other companies scheduled to open in Chicago and elsewhere.
Spamilton is gorgeously danced, sung and acted by an outstanding company of five expert parodists who send up the original cast of Hamilton (plus a few legends of the theater) with expert spoofery. Each is on the cutting edge of his/her craft, supporting Alessandrini’s capacity to simultaneously parody and salute his subject with affection. Dan Rosales as an edgy Miranda has captured the essence of the wunderkind, who has miraculously maintained his down-to-earth persona during his Pulitzer Prize- and Tony-winning adventure. Spamilton mirrors the obsession around Miranda, and is especially on uproarious point “In the Hype” and the closing number, a reprise of “My Shot.”
As Leslie Odom, Jr., Chris Anthony Giles scores another bull’s-eye of portrayal, sprinting right off the block at the top of the show in “Alexander Hamilton,” “Aaron Burr, Sir” and “My Shot.” Nicholas Edwards, in a huge afro, high-steps as Daveed Diggs, and shines with his “Fresh Prince of Big Hair” and the “Rap Off Contest,” while belter Lauren Villegas as all of the Schuyler sisters (with help from Avenue Q-like puppets) is a powerhouse presence, side-splitting in a parody of “Avenue Q Crucible” and “Shall We Dance?” in which The Lion King meets The King and I. The fifth cast member, countertenor Juwan Crawley, is positively hilarious doing a turn as the title character from Annie and as Ben Franklin Sondheim. The Sondheim segments of the show are priceless, with parodies of the “Witch’s Rap,” “Children Will Listen” and “Another Hundred People” exquisitely capturing why it’s possible to both adore and fear that other revolutionist of musical theater, Stephen Sondheim. Later in the show, a parody of his “Everybody’s Got The Right” (Assassins) produces guffaws with appearances of characters from The Phantom of the Opera, Cats, Wicked and Aladdin.
Spamilton also boasts two guest actors. A guest King George, played by Glenn Bassett (who is also production stage manager), feyly and pricelessly bemoans that “Straight Is Back,” lamenting the death of gay musicals such as Kinky Boots and La Cage aux Folles. A running gag features a guest diva (Dorothy Bishop) who, dressed as an old crone, but revealed to be Bernadette Peters and later Liza Minnelli, begs Miranda for tickets to Hamilton. Villegas also plays the gag as Audra McDonald, and later appears as pop star divas JLo, Beyoncé and Gloria Estefan, begging Miranda for songs. A final diva appearance by Villegas, as Barbra Streisand, precedes the brilliant casting parody “The Film When It Happens,” in which the Broadway cast members forlornly realize they will never get a chance to star in the Hollywood version of Hamilton.
There is so much to Spamilton that no one review could begin to capture. It only remains to go see the show, and be prepared to laugh till it hurts – in a good way.
Costumes by Dustin Cross perfectly mirror those of the source. Costuming for non-Hamilton sequences are imaginative and fun. Choreography by Gerry McIntyre, with direction by Alessandrini, give a delightful, if off-center authenticity to the movement, dancing and staging. Musical direction is by Fred Barton with arrangements by Barton and Richard Danley, and some contributions by pianist/arranger Eugene Gwozdz, who accompanies some of the shows.