Lin Manuel-Miranda wrote the Tony Award winning musical In the Heights. But did you also know he wrote another blockbuster hit called Hamilton? For those people living under a rock for the past three years, Hamilton has become a huge sensation and what usually comes with popular events are parodies. So if you’ve been searching for a show that throws some jokes at Hamilton’s expense, SPAMILTON is the show for you!
Royal George Theatre brings SPAMILTON Straight from the Broadway Stage
The set is a very minimal black stage with a proscenium arch parallelling the typical Broadway theater. Then we have the Obamas paralleling the Kennedys as they enter on stage and get ready for bed. Like the Kennedys favorite bedtime ritual of playing the soundtrack to Camelot, here we imagine the Obamas playing their favorite musical before bed, Hamilton. We are then introduced to the rest of the cast of SPAMILTON.
Yando Lopez plays Lin Manuel-Miranda who wants to revolutionize Broadway and create something completely out of the ordinary. And so SPAMILTON plays off the Hamilton plotline as it follows Lin Manuel Miranda playing Alexander Hamilton trying to write the next best thing as a scrappy upstart.
The show touches on writing and creating the musical, its instant popularity, overpriced tickets, and the thousand words per minute song lyrics. All of these might be more familiar to you if you’ve already seen the show or kept up with the buzz it’s created. It parodies the songs of Hamilton like the opening song “Alexander Hamilton” becomes “Lin Manuel as Hamilton” and introduces Lin instead of Alexander. “The Schuyler Sisters” becomes “Look Around (The Schuyler Puppets)” as Michelle Lauto plays Renee Goldsberry playing Angelica Schuyler looking for a new musical accompanied by her two puppet sisters.
Eventually the story comes to a close with the Tony awards where the nominees are “Hamilton, Hamilton, Hamilton, and….Hamilton.” Then it evolves into predicting what the future of Hamilton will hold, a film perhaps? For the most part, SPAMILTON’s songs evoke the spirit of the original song they parody and the audience laughs along as it pokes fun of the show.
Brush Up on Your Broadway and Pop Culture References
If the names Bernadette Peters, Liza Minnelli, and Beyonce don’t ring a bell, this show might not be for you. This parody relies heavily on knowing the references to Broadway & pop divas as well as popular shows on Broadway. It references Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce, and Gloria Estefan wanting to create a hit pop song with Lin (Saying No To This).
It roasts Manuel for the rise and fall of In the Heights’ popularity. It looks at the musical theatre world as a whole - critiquing the Disney shadow that has occupied a lot of space in the last few years (Lion King, Aladdin, etc) and also the format we’ve come to expect from a high-end musical - the glitz, the glamor, the showstoppers. Suffice it to say if you haven’t heard of Book of Mormon and the like, a lot of the jokes might go over your head.
A Little Muddled in the Middle, But Good in Pieces
The initial setup of Lin Manuel wanting to revolutionize Broadway gets lost in the show. The first four songs follow the original musical and stick to the storyline of Manuel’s creating the musical. However, in the middle this gets a little lost. It seems like it was a mashup of writer Gerard Alessandrini’s, traditional show format and Hamilton.
Alessandrini created the parody hit, Forbidden Broadway, which pokes fun of a variety of Broadway shows - everything from the rotating stage of Les Mis to the leading ladies of Wicked.
You’ll see a lot of these trademarks used in SPAMILTON, but they aren’t really necessary to the show.
Alessandrini has an affinity for Broadway divas because he uses their appearances in both Forbidden Broadway and SPAMILTON. However it doesn’t really make sense in the context of SPAMILTON.
It seems like he’s sticking to what he knows best, but it gets confusing when it doesn’t add direction to the show.
However, if we take each moment at face value and don’t try to fit them into a chronological plotline, the show is superbly funny. The cast is great at morphing into different characters and personas. Eric Andrew Lewis playing Wayne Brady, playing Leslie Odom Jr., playing Aaron Burr does this especially well as he plays opposite Lopez’s Manuel/Hamilton. He has a sultry smooth voice and the clear diction and enunciation Odom is known for. Michelle Lauto as has the tall order of playing all the females (besides some divas) and fulfills the task with her vocal and comedic range. Donterrio Johnson does a spot on Daveed Diggs complete with a larger than life afro, and David Robbins absolutely kills with his dry humor. There are some other surprises in store, you’ll just have to see for yourself!
While SPAMILTON is not a parody of the actual Hamilton show, it does have it’s funny moments in parodying songs and adds in some satirical comments about Broadway as a whole. So when walking into this show, think supplement, not substitute. SPAMILTON is a fresh take on Forbidden Broadway and a solid 85 minutes of your life well-spent in the theater.
Note: An excerpt of this review appears in Theatre in Chicago.
SPAMILTON has an open ended run
Tuesdays through Fridays at 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Sundays at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.
The Royal George Theatre
1641 N Halsted St.
Chicago, IL 60614