Spamilton: An American Parody
Full Disclosure: I have not seen Hamilton. I have also not memorized all the lyrics to the show. However, I know the gist of it, recognize a few songs, and have a love of musical theater in general. I was going into Spamilton slightly unprepared, but it was an absolute delight!
With a sparse cast of five (plus two special guests), no sets, and a single pianist, Spamilton parallels the story of Alexander Hamilton with the life of Lin-Manuel Miranda – from Miranda’s growing up loving musicals and being disappointed by the current state of corporate-funded shows, to his quest to revolutionize Broadway by taking his cue from Sondheim and infusing his music with 100s of syllables of rhetoric. William Cooper Howell’s “slightly obnoxious” and headstrong Miranda stole the show as he began his career with In the Heights and went on to infamy with Hamilton, resulting in song requests from pop divas and numerous movie deals.
Wilkie Ferguson III’s version of Leslie Odom Jr. provides a more “traditional” view of musical theater and doubts Miranda’s quest to change the course of Broadway. He fights Miranda at every turn, telling him to “smile more, rhyme less.” However, with the growing fame and rise of Miranda, Odom Jr. eventually ends up begging to be in the Hamilton movie – when it happens. Rounding out the extremely energetic and talented core cast, and all playing multiple roles, are Zakiya Young, John Devereaux and Dedrick A. Bonner. Other than during the special guests’ songs, they commanded the bare stage for the entire length of the 88-minute show, rapping, singing and dancing their hearts out – any one of them could have been pulled straight from Broadway’s Hamilton. The special guests, Becca Brown and Jesse Pepe, crackled with electricity during their brief-but-fun time on stage. Jesse Pepe as a flamboyant and wild-eyed King George lamented about how Hamilton is making Broadway “more straight,” while Becca Brown’s dynamic impersonations of Glenn Close, Liza Minnelli and Barbra Streisand begged Miranda for Hamilton tickets.
As with Gerard Alessandrini’s Forbidden Broadway series, Spamilton lampoons other productions from The King and I and Avenue Q to The Crucible and Cats. While the songs are mostly parodies of Hamilton hits, musical theater lovers will also delight in comic exaggerations of tunes from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, West Side Story, Ragtime and Into the Woods. James Lent, the lone pianist and occasional percussionist, held down the show with his beyond-amazing instrumentation; playing alone for a full 88 minutes must be tiring, but he was lively as ever until the very last note.
The Kirk Douglas Theatre also has some fun activities for early arrivals. Get there early to take photos donning a cape or holding a parasol in front of the Spamilton backdrop, write and post your own Miranda-inspired lyrics, or sing your best Hamilton karaoke for a chance at raffle prizes.
I suggest theater-goers know a bit about Lin-Manuel Miranda and Hamilton’s rise on Broadway, and have an appreciation for musicals to really get the most out of this show. I’m sure there are in-gags I missed out on due to my lack of Hamilton knowledge, but I very much enjoyed the campy, over-the-top production of Spamilton.
Spamilton runs through January 7th, 2018 at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City.