For 30 years, Gerard Alessandrini has ripped into Broadway and the West End with his satirical and hilarious Forbidden Broadway musical revues. Having received critical acclaim for his previous runs at the Menier, Alessandri returns to the factory for his new spoof on the little-known fringe favourite Hamilton – now wittingly titled here as Spamilton.
Using the plot of Hamilton as its narrative, Spamilton tries to find the humour in the life and career highlights of Lin-Manuel Miranda as well as various recent theatre productions both on Broadway and in the West End.
The London production of Hamilton has been described as ‘revolutionary’ and ‘magnificient’ by British critics. So why do a parody of a show which is so well-loved, so fantastic and not exactly hilarious to start with? Rather than being funny, Spamilton emphasises the intelligent wordplay and quick pace of the lyrics that Hamilton has by following strictly to the original score’s rhythms and melodies throughout.
The Hamilton sections of the show has its moments — King George’s big moment is changed to ‘Straight Is Back’ and Lin-Manuel sings that he is ‘not going to let Broadway…rot’. It’s the scenes that poke humour at non-Hamilton subjects that provides a lot more comic relief, as well as a relief that the show isn’t so Hamilton heavy. Sophie-Louise Dann shines in her impressions of Elaine Page and Liza Minnelli, both of whom appear unexpectedly and thrill the audience. Multiple people shouted ‘yes!’ when Liza popped out of nowhere.
Other highlights are short sketches on the success of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and The Book of Mormon as well as a reference to the current struggle of The Glenn Miller Story and Tommy Steele at the Coliseum. There’s an importance for the show to keep bang on-trend rather than rely on old parodies of Les Mis and Phantom.
Cast wise, they give full effort to the script and multiple characterisations they have to tackle with. Julie Yammanee in particular stands out for her bright vocals and high energy performances of Gloria Estefan and Barbra Streisand. There is, however, an odd divide between the five principals and the two ‘other’ actors that play King George and Elaine Page/Liza Minnelli, as in fact it’s those two that provide the greatest humour in the show.
Spamilton is theatre that makes fun of theatre. It’s written for theatre fans only in mind, for if anyone hadn’t seen Hamilton or knew that Lin-Manuel was in Disney’s Moana (myself included), they’d be lost in places. Whilst it’s only just arrived in town, do try to find the funny in other shows and let Hamilton have its shot.
Reviewed by Barry O’Reilly
Photo: Johan Persson
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