By Mike “Buzz” Buzzelli, ‘Burgh Vivant
Gerard Alessandrini, the comedic genius behind “Forbidden Broadway,” is up to his old tricks. He’s planting his tongue firmly in his cheek, and sending up the blockbuster rap opera, “Hamilton,” in the musical spoof, “Spamilton: An American Parody.”
In 1982, Gerard Alessandrini created “Forbidden Broadway” where he skewered Broadway musicals, constantly updating the show parodying almost every show on the Great White Way ever since. When you consider the sheer enormity and popularity of “Hamilton,” it was only a matter of time before Alessandrini satirized the history-making musical (about American history).
In the show, Lin-Manuel/Alexander Hamilton (T.J. Newton) is joined on stage by Hamilton’s political rival and nemesis, Aaron Burr (Tru Verret-Fleming), a pianist (Nick Stamatakis), and the rest of the “Hamilton” cast (Justin Lonesome, Erin Ramirez, LaTrea Rembert) to discuss the musical phenomenon that launched a thousand careers.
Not only is “Hamilton” lambasted, but the characters needle every possible musical that’s passed through the sacred spaces in midtown Manhattan. No show is safe. Every show is lampooned in “Hamilton” style, nearly forty songs poking fun at “Willy Wonka and the Charlie Factory,” “Wicked,” “The Lion King,” “The King and I,” “Miss Saigon,” “Cats,” and many, many more.
There’s also a running gag with some of Broadway’s biggest divas.
Everybody gets into the act, literally and figuratively. At one point, the pianist (Stamatakis) dons a cape and crown and becomes King George, and belts out a tune.
Eliza (Ramirez) encapsulates the plot at the end with a topsy-turvy version of “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story.”
Director Gerry McIntyre cast the show superbly. The actors sing and dance with enthusiasm and verve. While they’re in on the joke, they play it as seriously as the can, which makes it even funnier. Many of the actors are playing dual roles.
Newton’s resemblance to Lin-Manuel Miranda is uncanny. From far away, you might be fooled. He is also a fantastic singer.
Verret-Fleming is an extremely talented Burr (or Burr wannabe), and Lonesome is terrific in various roles.
Ramirez puts the ham in the spam. She gets some of the best lines, and she knows how to use them. Her impersonations are spot on. She’s hilarious. Her Mary Poppins is amazing.
Rembert’s dancing is flawless, every move was sharp and crisp. It’s hard to take your eyes off of him when he’s moving (looking fierce in a supersized afro). The only problem is he is out-dancing the rest of the cast. It’s hard for the others to match his ability. Don’t let this deter you from going to see this fun-filled extravaganza.
Stamatakis plays the piano beautifully. He also gets to sing one of the funniest songs in the show. He camps it up in a big, broad way (broad way not Broadway) and it’s delightful.
Dustin Cross’s costumes are spectacular, and the cast has to get in and out of them so swiftly.
“Spamilton” is full of silly fun. If you’re a Hamilfan (Hamiltonian?), the jokes will be even funnier; but you haven’t paid the small fortune to see the original – you can still enjoy this spoof.
Side note (for locals only): In the Southwestern corner of heaven, Don Brockett and Barbara Russell are looking down on the Greer Cabaret Theater and laughing there ethereal asses off.
There is simply not a more convenient spot for laughing up a lung than here at “Spamilton.”
“Spamilton” runs through the summer at the Greer Cabaret Theater, 655 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. For more information, click here.