Regional Reviews: Phoenix
In the director's note in the program, Alessandrini mentions how Jacqueline Kennedy revealed that she and her husband listened to the cast recording of Camelot each night before going to bed and how that statement resulted in JFK's presidency being called "the Camelot years." He also mentions how Barack and Michelle Obama were big Hamilton fans and uses the fantasy of them listening to the Hamilton recording as they turn in for the night as his starting point for this fast and funny show.
Just as Hamilton: An American Musical is a musical biography of Alexander Hamilton's life, Spamilton: An American Parody is Alessandrini's musical biography of what he imagines Manuel went through creating Hamilton as a way to save Broadway"a figment of my twisted imagination" he writes. Alessandrini's Forbidden Broadway song parodies have always shown his shrewd observation of Broadway trends, from the British sung-through musicals of the 1980s to the string of jukebox musicals of recent years. He interjects that same smart knowledge into Spamilton while also poking fun at Miranda's energetic style and seemingly ubiquitous nature, though this is ultimately a love letter to Miranda, Hamilton and Broadway.
The show not only spoofs Miranda and Hamilton but also parodies several other musicals, including Camelot, The Book of Mormon, Annie, Sweeney Todd, The King and I, and Assassins, along with such Broadway personalities as Stephen Sondheim, Bernadette Peters, Liza Minnelli, Julie Andrews and Barbra Streisand. Alessandrini has been known to constantly tweak and update each version of Forbidden Broadway, and he has slightly updated Spamilton since the original production to feature shout-outs to Miranda's starring role in the film Mary Poppins Returns along with such recent Broadway shows as Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and The Cher Show. While not every bit in the piece lands perfectly, the fast-paced nature of the show ensures that another funny bit is just minutes if not seconds away.
Alessandrini's lyrics and his ability to weave his thoughts and ideas so they lay naturally on Miranda's music, and the other Broadway composers spoofed in the show, are superb. While it is beneficial to be familiar with the score of Hamilton to get the most out of this parody, you don't necessarily need to have seen a production of that show to have a great time. Choreographer Gerry McIntyre and Dustin Cross's costume designs are loving homages to Andy Blankenbuehler's choreography and Paul Tazewell's costumes from Hamilton, though they also include a few humorous, original touches.
Musical director Curtis Reynolds accompanies the cast with the arrangements by Fred Barton and Richard Danley sounding sensational on the solo piano. There isn't a weak link in the cast, with Adrian Lopez, who has a strong resemblance to Miranda, Chuckie Benson, Dominic Pecikonis, Datus Puryear and Paloma D'Auria instilling every part they play with a sheer sense of glee and non-stop energy. They all have superb singing voices and manage to hit some impressive notes while not getting tongue-tied around the fast-paced lyrics. D'Auria, who just joined the touring cast a few weeks back, is a crowd pleaser as the show's sole female who also plays several famous Broadway divas, and Brandon Kinley has a fun feature cameo as a foppish King George III.
Hamilton may have made Lin-Manuel Miranda Broadway's current reigning king, but Spamilton: An American Parody proves that Gerard Alessandrini is the king of American musical theater parody, a crown he's been proudly wearing for over 25 years.
Spamilton: An American Parody, through August 10, 2019, at Phoenix Theatre Company, 1825 N Central Avenue, Phoenix AZ. After the Phoenix run, the tour goes on to Hartford, Connecticut, with additional stops to be announced. Tickets for the Phoenix stop can be purchased at http://phoenixtheatre.com or by calling 602-254-2151
Created, Written and Directed by Gerard Alessandrini
Cast: (in alphabetical order)