Entertainment » Theatre

Spamilton

by Harker Jones
Thursday Nov 16, 2017
Spamilton

Lin-Manuel Miranda's 2015 show "Hamilton: An American Musical" reaped a record-setting 16 Tony nominations after it opened on Broadway, winning 11, in addition to a Pulitzer, an Obie, a Drama Desk and a Grammy. The soundtrack went triple platinum, and a film version is in the works.

It's not just a sensation; it's a phenomenon. Which means it's ripe for a send-up, and Gerard Alessandrini, the brains behind "Forbidden Broadway" and "Forbidden Hollywood," wasted no time spoofing it to superb effect, poking fun at both the playwright, the play and Broadway itself, chronicling the inspiration for and the creation of the show and the aftermath of its astounding success.

Miranda's portrayed as frustrated at the state of the Great White Way. The mediocrity of some of the biggest shows, the laziness of revival after revival after revival, and the pandering to the lowest common denominator threaten to overwhelm him as he feels pressured to produce more of the same. The difference is that he wants to save Broadway from the middle of the road, wants to push it into a new era -- and by going with his heart, of course, he does just that.

This is all illustrated at breakneck speed (with lots of "inside theater" jokes as you can imagine) with only seven actors and told almost entirely through rap and song. There's only a handful of dialogue, leaving the pianist James Lent to be active essentially nonstop. He's a first-rate piano player, and his hands are marvels to be able to keep up.

With a stage devoid of anything except Lent, his piano and a wall with the logo for "Spamilton" -- and only the sparest of props -- it's up to the performers to carry the entire production, playing multiple characters and wearing multiple costumes, courtesy of Dustin Cross's extraordinary designs. How they can remember all the words and all the entrance cues AND all the choreography is astonishing.

Choreographer Gerry McIntyre puts the ensemble of William Cooper Howell, Zakiya Young, Wilkie Ferguson III, John Deveraux and Dedrick A. Bonner through their paces, and the creator, writer and director of the show, Alessandrini, gives them fantastic material to show off their versatility. Their energy never flags through a tight 80-minute runtime with no intermission.

The types of music range from hip-hop to pop to show tunes to rap, and every song is as catchy as those in "Hamilton" with standout numbers being "Lin-Manuel as Hamilton," "Straight Guy's Winter's Prom," "Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Cries," "Raise a Glass to Broadway" and "One Big Song," which was written specifically for this production.

While the show skewers much of Broadway (and what we love about theater), the jabs at mainstream, populist shows like "Wicked," "Cats," "Aladdin," "The Little Mermaid," "The Lion King," and "Sunset Boulevard," among others, and some of the brightest talent to be involved with theater, including Stephen Sondheim, Glenn Close and Liza Minnelli, come across as gentle pokes, not mean-spirited criticisms.

One of the best things about the show is that, while it's not made for children, there really isn't any adult language, themes, or violence that would preclude it from being a family outing. So if you know a budding theater queen, he or she would love this, and they would do well to aspire to be in these ranks.

"Spamilton: An American Parody" runs through December 31 at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Boulevard, Culver City, CA 90232. For tickets or information, call 213-628-2772 or visit CenterTheatreGroup.org


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