Producer, writer and director Gerard Alessandrini’s “Spamilton,” currently in production at The Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted through May 28th, is a clever and enjoyable parody of the biggest musical ever. Rumor has it that on opening night, fully half of the Chicago cast of “Hamilton” was in the audience. Indeed, without “Hamilton”, and a host of other Broadway show-legends, “Spamilton” would have nothing upon which to feed- it is, in effect, an extremely high-level “Elvis Impersonator”.
Therefore, it has a built-in pool of potential audience members: those who saw and loved “Hamilton”, and those who couldn’t afford to see it, haven’t seen it yet, or sneer at seeing it, but want to “get it” anyway. It also contains plenty of insider jokes about other big-time past musicals, for the enjoyment of sophisticated theatergoers. “Spamilton” wants to be in the room where it happens, and it largely succeeds.
Starring Donterrio Johnson, Adam LaSalle, Michelle Lauto, Eric Andrew Lewis, Yando Lopez and David Robbins, with Adam LaSalle at the piano and onstage in a hilarious cameo role, and with great costumes by Dustin Cross, sophisticated choreography by Gerry McIntyre, coupled with terrific music directed by Fred Barton and arranged by Barton and Richard Danley, this is a 90-minute strong and tight production. It’s catty but bighearted in its spoofery and delivers a lot of laughs. The cast is agile, light on their feet and all of them can put over a song. The details of costume and mimicry are spot on-target, and the somewhat off-kilter way the characters resemble the originals sews up the show.
The plot is as follows- Lin-Manuel Miranda feels he must be the one-man savior of the Broadway musical. along the way to fulfilling his dream, he meets Stephen Sondheim as well as a bevy of staple divas including Bernadette Peters, Liza Minelli and Barbara Striesand, brilliantly impersonated by Guest Diva Christine Pedi. He also vanquishes the competition and routs a variety of past shows, from “Lion King” to “Annie”. Highlights include the constant ribbing of Lin-Manuel Miranda and the tweaking of "Hamilton's" well-known lyrics in numbers like "I am not gonna let Broadway rot", a take-off on "I am not throwing away my shot", and "What Did You Miss", a satirical remake of "What Did I Miss", a pointed gibe at "Hamilton's" often indecipherable shotgun style rap lyrics.
The entire production is roaringly funny. The high spirits of the cast are infectious while the music is catchy and instantly recognizable as “taken” from “Hamilton”. The actors are engaging, the dancing and singing high-class. it’s not "Hamilton", it doesn’t give you an insight into history, doesn’t try to tell any difficult moral truths. It’s a classy, witty, and very funny look at the phenomenon that is Lin-Manuel Miranda's "Hamilton" in the larger context of selling a Broadway show. It takes it's best shot and it's highly recommended.
For information and tickets go to the Spamilton website
All photos courtesy of Michael Brosilow