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Spamilton

Gerard Alessandrini’s latest concoction quickly comes to resemble his many different versions of "Forbidden Broadway," that stalwart, satirical celebration of all things musical-comedy.

Chris Anthony Giles, Nicholas Edwards, Dan Rosales, Juwan Crawley and Nora Schell (original cast) in a scene from “Spamiliton” (Photo credit: Carol Rosegg)

David Kaufman

David Kaufman, Critic

Though it’s called Spamilton and it’s essentially a loving parody of Hamilton from beginning to end, Gerard Alessandrini’s latest concoction quickly comes to resemble his many different versions of Forbidden Broadway, that stalwart, satirical celebration of all things musical-comedy. The program for Spamilton (it’s called “Playkill,” as opposed to “Playbill,” at the top) even has the show’s logo of Alexander Hamilton, in black profile, thumbing his nose–at himself, as it were.

As Alessandrini says in a program note: “It’s all a figment of my twisted imagination and hopefully a glorious mash-up of theatre today and my wildest musical comedy dreams.” Indeed, by the end of this 75-minute revue, you will find yourself feeling like seemingly every Broadway musical comedy has been referred to–either musically or verbally–or both.

Spamilton begins with the Obamas putting on their pj’s and getting ready for bed. (In the same program note, Alessandrini explains that, just as the Kennedys championed Camelot, the Obamas’ “favorite musical” is Hamilton.) Barack takes out a vinyl album of Hamilton and puts it on a turntable to effectively begin the musical.

Dan Rosales as Lin-Manuel Miranda playing Alexander Hamilton in a scene from “Spamiliton” (Photo credit: Carol Rosegg)

The first few numbers mimic the first few rap numbers of Hamilton–albeit with Alessandrini’s “twist” on the lyrics: “Alexander Hamilton” becomes “Lin-Manuel as Hamilton” (“This blue collar/Shining beacon/Puerto Rican”)…. “Aaron Burr, Sir” becomes “Aaron Burr, Sir. Nervous-er….” “My Shot” becomes “His Shot,” and now contains the lyrics: “I am not gonna let Broadway rot” and “I am not throwing away my pot.”

If “His Shot” also veers off in old, familiar Broadway directions (with references to The Music Man, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, and Gypsy), “The Schuyler Sisters” number (“Look Around”) hilariously includes “An American Psycho in Paris” (to the tune of “I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise”), “The Lion King & I” (singing, “Shall we roar?” to the tune of “Shall we Dance?”), and “Avenue Crucible” (“Every Arthur Miller play/Gets revived too much today”). And in “Lin-Manuel’s Quest,” as the music shifts to “The Impossible Dream,” Lin-Manuel sings: “This is my quest/To raise up the bar/To murder Matilda/To bury Bright Star….”

The Book of Mormon comes up for ridicule (“Hello/My name is last year’s hit”), as do Phantom of the Opera, Annie, In the Heights (of course), Cats, 1776, Sweeney Todd–many of them in an extended number to Sondheim’s “Everybody’s Got the Right to be Happy” (from Assassins).

Dan Rosales, Chris Anthony Giles, Nicholas Edwards, Juwan Crawley and Nora Schell in a scene from “Spamiliton” (original cast) (Photo credit: Carol Rosegg)

But the best is the introduction of Sondheim himself, when Lin-Manuel sings (to “You Made Me Love You”), “Dear Mr. Sondheim…. Your lyrics are stupendous/My syntax is horrendous,” and “You are a God among us/Your brain is so humongous.” This is followed by a healthy number of specific Sondheim send-ups, presented as the master’s advice to Lin-Manuel: “Careful the rap you play/No one will listen/Careful how dense the phrase/People will leave/Or heave” is sung to the tune of “Children Will Listen.”

With the familiar title-song of Camelot as the backdrop, the culminating lyrics include: “Don’t let it be undone/We had some raunchy fun/For one brief shining moment/That’s known as Spamilton!”

As directed in a breathless pace by Alessandrini, the youthful, and energetic cast includes Chris Anthony Giles, Nicole Ortiz, Larry Owens, Tristan J. Shuler (who impersonates Barack Obama in the beginning, and later does a terrific Brian Stokes Mitchell), and Dan Rosales as Lin-Manuel. There are also two “guest stars”: Glenn Bassett is wonderfully exasperated as the “Guest King” (singing, “Straight is back/Soon you’ll see/Campy musicals went out with Glee….”), and Jenny Lee Stern is the “Guest Diva,” who, during the course of the show, becomes Bernadette Peters, Judy Garland, and, of course, Streisand. (Streisand sings, “I wanna be in the film when it happens….”) And then, there’s J-Lo, who becomes Beyoncé before finishing up as Gloria Estefan. No one is above or below Alessandrini’s satirical radar.

Spamilton (extended through May 28, moving to the 47th Street Theatre on June 1, 2017)

Triad Theater, 158 West 72nd Street, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 212-279-4200 or visit http://www.triadnyc.com

Running time: 75 minutes without an intermission

 

David Kaufman
About David Kaufman (30 Articles)
David Kaufman has been covering the theater in New York since 1981. A former theater critic for the New York Daily News, he was also a long-time contributor to the Nation, Vanity Fair, the Village Voice and the New York Times. He is also the author of the award-winning Ridiculous! The Theatrical Life and Times of Charles Ludlam, the best-selling Doris Day: The Untold Story of the Girl Next Door, and his most recent biography, Some Enchanted Evenings: The Glittering Life and Times of Mary Martin.

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