Tim Leininger, Contributing Critic - Connecticut
If you’re a fan of Broadway musicals and particularly a fan of the musical “Hamilton” then “Spamilton” is a comedic evening of parody of the acclaimed Lin-Manuel Miranda musical. The national tour has stopped in West Hartford with performances through Sept. 8 at Playhouse on Park.
Crafted by Gerard Alessandrini, the same comedic creator of the acclaimed Broadway comedy series “Forbidden Broadway,” “Spamilton” gives a satirical look at the creative journey Miranda took to create his smash hit musical, heavily using music from the show in its 90-minute run time.
Within are a bevy of parodies of songs from “Hamilton” like “My Shot,” “You’ll Be Back,” and “The Room Where it Happens” as well riffing on a variety of musicals like “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Book of Mormon.”
Presented in conjunction with The Bushnell, the small Playhouse on Park black box theater is the perfect space for “Spamilton” as previous Alessandrini shows like the “Forbidden Broadway” series have been presented in similar spaces in New York -- the first time I saw “Forbidden Broadway” was in the basement theater of Ellen’s Stardust Diner in 1998.
Sure the songs are witty and silly, especially for the Broadway in-crowd who have seen the various musicals “Spamilton” pokes fun at, but its merits only meet its potential with a fully committed cast and thankfully this cast does a fantastic job in exaggerating their characters to humorous results.
Adrian Lopez does a pretty spot on Miranda imitation, playing to Miranda’s little twitches and physical quirks and Paloma D’Auria is fantastic as the show’s only female, juggling what seems like at least a dozen different roles.
Chuckie Benson, Dominic Pecikonis, Datus Puryear, and Brandon Kinley round out the cast with exceptional performances. Kinley in particular shines as King George III in his spoof of “You’ll Be Back” called “Straight is Back” and Puryear’s “Daveed Diggs – The Fresh Prince of Big Hair” is fantastic.
Gerry McIntyre’s choreography feels a bit repetitive at times; particularly with the number “His Shot.” This just may be poking fun at the possible over use of certain dance moves used in “Hamilton.” If it is, it’s something that I don’t recall, but other people may catch the joke more than I.
“Spamilton” is not the most universally accessible of Alessandrini’s shows. Because of how “Hamilton” heavy the story is, it does require at least some familiarity with the show to pick up on a lot of the humor. But even if you haven’t seen the show, jokes like celebrities begging for “Hamilton” tickets disguised as the beggar woman from “Sweeney Todd” is brilliant and something most people can catch pretty easily.
A potential problem – something its inspiration deals with as well -- is if you’re not acclimated to rap music and lack the ability to follow fairly quick lyrics, there will be times with “Spamilton” where you may have trouble following what is being said.
“Spamilton” is a solid outing for Alessandrini. It is an overall funny show and if you’re a fan of “Hamilton” or Miranda in general, should have an entertaining evening.
Theater: Playhouse on Park
Location: 244 Park Road, West Hartford
Production: Created, Written, and Directed by Gerard Alessandrini; Choreographed by Gerry McIntyre; Musical Arrangements by Fred Barton and Richard Danley; Music Director Curtis Reynolds; Set Design by Morgan Large; Costume Design by Dustin Cross; Lighting Design by Michael Gilliam
Show times: Evening: Tuesday through Thursday 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday 8 p.m. Matinee: Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday 2 p.m.
Tickets: $43.50 to $56. Available online at www.playhouseonpark.org, by phone at 860-523-5900 ext. 10