Review: ‘Spamilton’ at Triad

Lin-Manuel Won’t Let Broadway ‘Rot’

By Jonathan Spira on 26 September 2016
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Some theatergoers could possibly be forgiven for thinking they got the hottest ticket in town at a bargain price. Of course, they’d have to overlook the program’s cover, a silhouette of Hamilton thumbing his nose, not raising his arm in triumph. Then there’s the Playbill masthead, in this case where a subtle substitution of a “k” for a “b” renders it as “Playkill.” The show’s subtitle has also been altered from “An American Musical” to “An American Parody.” Finally, there’s the opening scene (spoiler alert and many more to come), when the first couple, Michelle and Barack Obama, play the “Hamilton” cast album (an LP) as they climb into bed.

All this and what is to come could only be the work of one man, playwright and parodist Gerard Alessandrini, known for multiple iterations of the brilliant satire series “Forbidden Broadway.”

“Spamilton” opened in July at the Triad on West 72 Street, the same location where “Forbidden Broadway” had its premiere some 34 years ago. It isn’t only a send up of “Hamilton” and its revered star and creator Lin-Manuel Miranda but also a pastiche of multiple Broadway hits from “Camelot” to “Book of Mormon.”

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Without going overboard on spoilers (and you don’t need to have seen “Hamilton” to appreciate “Spamilton” although some lines may go over your head), our Hamilton/Lin Manuel (played brilliantly by Dan Rosales, who comes across as a theater cum hip-hop cum comedy nerd), instead of making his vow, “I am not giving up my shot!”, promises “I’m not gonna let Broadway rot!” (Later on, to ensure the show appeals to stoners as well, there’s a short refrain about not giving up pot.)

While it may sometimes seem that “Hamilton” is the only show on Broadway (a point driven home as cast member Nora Schell assumes the identity of Barbra Streisand reading off the nominees for best musical at the last Tony Awards ceremony, “‘Hamilton,’ ‘Hamilton,’ ‘Yentl’ – oh, sorry – I mean ‘Hamilton’ and ‘Hamilton.’”), the show and its creator have moved beyond merely dominating theater columns and reviews and became front-page news.

Schell is someone to keep an eye on. Her brilliant voice – powerful would be an understatement here – and her ability to play a variety of female roles including the lead as Angelica Schuyler, one of the three Schuyler sisters in the show, outshine the rest of what is an undeniably brilliant cast. If you think that one Schuyler sister isn’t enough, you would be right: the other two appear as hand puppets “Avenue Q” style (and there’s another nod to that great show here as well).

The cast of “Spamilton” is so good that its participants could rightly lay claim to their characters’ roles in the actual Broadway production. In addition to Rosales and Schell, Chris Anthony Giles plays Leslie Odom Jr. playing Aaron Burr, Nicholas Edwards plays Daveed Diggs playing Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette), while Juwan Crawley is nothing short of brilliant as a mash-up of Benjamin Franklin and Stephen Sondheim. The show’s musical director and pianist, Fred Barton, fills the theater with his ivories and his music sets the scene vividly.

In addition, Gina Kreiezmar, a “Forbidden Broadway” veteran, appeared somewhat randomly as various “guest divas” including Bernadette Peters, Liza Minelli, and Beyoncé, all frustrated in their search for “Hamilton” tickets.

If you’ve wondered about where “Hamilton” fits in the broader context of the Broadway continuum, there are multiple answers here at the Triad. You’ll just have to try taking a break in the 70 minutes of almost continuous laughter.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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