BWW Review: SPAMILTON, Menier Chocolate Factory
Gerard Alessandrini is not throwing away his shot. The creator of satirical revue Forbidden Broadway realised that the unprecedented success of Lin-Manuel Miranda's musical warranted a standalone show, and thus Spamilton was born. A 2016 Off-Broadway hit, the affectionate spoof now follows Hamilton over the pond.
Spamilton loosely borrows the musical structure of its inspiration and even has something of a narrative: Miranda coming to save Broadway from Disneyfied mediocrity. However, it still feels like a collection of sketches - some hitting more effectively than others, but enough pouring forth to keep you thoroughly entertained over 90 minutes.
Other musicals - and industry titans - crop up too, but this is lovingly designed for Hamilton buffs (specifically those au fait with the original Broadway cast). There's spot-on spoofing of the show's tropes via Gerry McIntyre's movement and Dustin Cross's costumes, plus Alessandrini teasing Miranda's "stretching rhymes harder", like his inability to resist another "er" slant rhyme for "Burr".
Many gags are specifically tied to the score, like the hilarious repetition-to-death here of "17" - referencing the oft-cited dates - or to the production itself, whether the double casting or Daveed Diggs's super-fast rapping. Others relate more to the industry, and may be too insider-ish for a general audience; but, as BroadwayWorld gets a nod, we're inclined to forgive on that score.
Miranda's singing voice comes under scrutiny, as does his major Twitter presence and new status as public property - Alessandrini returning to "In the Heights" to examine Brand Miranda, now allied to Brand Disney via Moana and Mary Poppins. Has the great man sold out? It's the one biting moment.
Otherwise, Alessandrini is generally celebratory of Hamilton - particularly compared with the empty spectacle mega-musicals crowding Broadway - though he points out some reasonable responses, like the fact that its fast, complex delivery may leave some baffled. "What did I miss?" bemoans the audience member who went to the loo and lost several years of history.
Miranda consults his "Yoda", Stephen Sondheim, about lyrical density, with "Another Hundred People" becoming "Another Hundred Syllables"; do as I say, not as I do, is the wry takeaway. Another highlight is speculation about the horrors of Hollywood casting in "The Film When It Happens". (Oh, Russell Crowe.)
King George's numbers are cleverly retooled - and marvellously delivered by Damian Humbley - to argue that, with Hamilton, "straight is back" in musicals, plus we get a welcome home reference via the Victoria Palace's endless construction work.
Otherwise (as in the show) the Brits are generally the baddies here, with the expected sniffy comment about Lloyd Webber and the British invasion. A nod to Meghan Markle and Prince Harry via an Avenue Q-meets-Suits mash-up is rather tortured, and even slightly dated - though if that's dated, a La La Land Oscars gag is practically prehistoric.
However, the hard-working, versatile, triple-threat company is terrific throughout. Playing Miranda-as-Hamilton, Liam Tamne brilliantly captures his Tigger-ish enthusiasm and sincerity, as well as his idiosyncratic rap delivery.
Jason Denton has the Daveed Diggs grin and swagger down pat, plus some great hairography. Eddie Elliott is the embodiment of Leslie Odom Jr-as-Burr cool command. His carefully emphasised speech is also welcome as more than just a character trait; elsewhere, some of the fast gags are lost in the shuffle.
Julie Yammanee is powerfully convincing as everything from all three Schuyler sisters at once to a milking-the-moment Barbra Streisand, while Marc Akinfolarin has an endearing stage presence and impressive comedic range.
But perhaps the show-stealer is Sophie-Louise Dann as a series of divas begging for Hamilton tickets - particularly her mannered Julie Andrews-as-Mary Poppins and eerily perfect evocation of Liza Minnelli. All are wonderfully accompanied by onstage pianist Simon Beck.
Spamilton does offer some reflection on the lifespan of a zeitgeist show - with Book of Mormon feeling superseded by Hamilton, and Harry Potter and the Cursed Show already threatening to be the new big thing.
But, ultimately, this is a blissful meeting of musical superfans - with puppet gags - and, via Miranda's thrilling artistry, a hopeful look to the future. Raise a glass to theatre indeed.
Photo credit: Johan Persson