Rap Tack ‘Spamilton’ Revives ‘Forbidden Broadway’ Franchise

Carol Rosegg

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton wrought many miracles on Broadway: The multiple-Tony winning show itself, of course, whose influence reached into the wider culture like no other since Rent two decades earlier. The pre-show, “Ham4Ham,” which made standing in line for a low-odds chance at a ticket the hottest time-suck in New York since Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Natalie Portman, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Walken, John Goodman and Marcia Gay Harden appeared for free in Central Park (that was 2001, the show was The Seagull and the director was Mike Nichols). The Wednesday matinees for city high school kids. The $850 ticket.

Nora Schell in "Spamilton."
Nora Schell in “Spamilton.” Carol Rosegg

To that list of disruptions we can now add the power of resurrection: Hamilton has proven so irresistible a target of parody that it has spawned Spamilton, bringing back to life the brilliant Forbidden Broadway franchise birthed by Gerard Alessandrini in 1982 but produced haltingly in recent years for want of spoof-worthy material. Hamilton provides the full Mona Lisa for Alessandrini and his giddy-making revuesniks to paint musical mustaches on. The result will make you want to be — oh, you know — in the room where it happens, which is the Triad, an intimate upstairs cabaret space, recently spiffed to a shine, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

Alessandrini’s starting point is Hamilton‘s now indelible creation myth, centered on Miranda’s performance of the opening number at a private performance for Barack and Michelle Obama. Here we have the First Couple retiring for the evening, with Barry setting down a vinyl platter for the lullabye that is Aaron Burr’s rapt and rapped introduction of the title character. Though in this case that’s not the foundling Founding Father but Miranda himself, as introduced by Chris Anthony Giles, playing Leslie Odom Jr. as Alexander’s ragged-on brand, Aaron Burr:

He’s a salsa hip-hop main man 
Broadway’s been less crappy
Since the happy day you came
And the world’s gonna know your name
What’s your game, man?

Hamilton (Dan Rosales) replies:

I am not gonna let Broadway (beat) rot
I am not gonna let Broadway
 (beat) rot
Hey, yo! I’m just like a beaver
A young over-achiever
And I love being a hot, big shot.

That play on Hamilton‘s signature pronunciamento — “I am not throwing away my shot” — is good, not great (“rot” is a weak echo, for starters), and that pretty much sums up this high-velocity entertainment.

Alessandrini skillfully skewers Hamilton‘s key numbers and dramatis personae, put across by a sensationally talented quintet that includes Nicholas Edwards (as Daveed Diggs as Lafayette/Jefferson); Juwan Crawley (as Chris Jackson as Washington, Ben Franklin and, yes, Stephen Sondheim); and Nora Schell and two hand puppets (as Renee Elise Goldsberry as all three Schuyler sisters). These actors — with notable assists from choreographer  Gerry McIntyre and musical director Fred Barton at the piano — are in the best tradition of sketch artists, capturing character with the perfectly timed arch of an eyebrow or shimmy of the hips. And they’re mad singer-dancers. Alessandrini’s script is frequently up to that calibre, launching an arsenal of belly-laughs from a quiver that also contains its share of dulled barbs.

The cast of "Spamilton."
The cast of “Spamilton.” Carol Rosegg

He can’t resist summoning the ghosts of Forbidden Broadway past — here are Liza-with-a-Z and Barbra-minus-an-A, Bernadette and Patti, not to mention assorted head-geared savannah fauna, Opera denizens and the like. Hovering above them all, the inescapable spirit of Stephen Sondheim. Alessandrini executes the ultimate insider/outsider game, playing to the cultural cognoscenti as well as to the Broadway tourist. And there’s only a little Spam in the Ham.

This article was printed from https://deadline.com/2016/09/spamilton-review-1201815932/