As a woman of the American theatre (about town), for years I had been hearing about the hilarity that is Forbidden Broadway. Typically it is favored by an older crowd, but through my middle and high school educations, while in the process of self-teaching myself the musical theatre classics, I dreamed of attending one of these parody performances. In musical theatre, you knew you had made it if you were mentioned in a Forbidden Broadway number.
Spamiltion: An American Parody, created by Gerard Alessandrini, the father of Forbidden Broadway, is the franchises's latest inception, capitalizing on the popularity of Hamilton: An American Musical's gargantuan success. Although present-day me still longed to actually see a Forbidden Broadway performance (even though my genre preference has since drifted from the toe-tapping musical numbers of old Broadway to the cringe-worthy reveals of contemporary family dramas) there was something about the show riding off of the coattails of Hamilton that irked me. But, I am LA Theatre Nerd after all, so I wouldn't miss it for the world. I took a swing of my astoundingly strong "Gin Manuel Miranda" craft cocktail and took my seat in the fourth row, in hopes that the production would "blow us all away."
It was clear from my continuous belly laughs and reeling forward in giggles that I was delighted by the show. I laughed heartily through many magically transformed Hamilton-inspired melodies. Apart from the Hamdemonium, there are clever nods to both classic and contemporary shows and stars. Susanne Blakeslee, a Forbidden Broadway, veteran has a whole slew of Broadway divas up her sleeve. William Cooper Howell's Lin-Manuel Miranda voice work is ON point. John Deveraux's Daveed Diggs: I died. The cast as a whole is not only tight, but multitalented in their abilities to portray a plethora of roles, sound beautiful and shake their groove things like there's no tomorrow. There were even parts of the show that proved educational. I had never considered the opportunities that must have been thrust, hard, at Lin-Manuel Miranda as a result of his Hamilton success, and how one wrong move could change his reputation and future forever. Think about it; everyone loves him. Even in his newly-acquired wealth, his imaged has remained overwhelmingly positive.
On a deeper level, the show is aware of the parody within itself. Thank God, the show rips on the capitalism of Broadway, how unfortunately producers and directors can't keep themselves from producing safe work that will sell. We're talking about jukebox musicals, movie-to-musicals, overdone revivals and reimagined revival spin-offs. On the other hand, this show is doing exactly that, taking a safe bet by capitalizing on a parody of a show that is already enormously successful. And the show's creator has made a career out of doing that! That is funny. To me it's both frustrating and funny at the same time, as a theatre practitioner and aspiring revolutionary of the theatre community. But if I had to choose one way or another, I'm glad this story, this parody, is being told because we need to be aware of what is happening on Broadway. Lin-Manuel Miranda took a big risk by defying the norms of contemporary Broadway, and ironically profited in an incredible way. He deserves compensation for the amazing art he created, and he's an inspiration to artists who want to create momentous work while also providing for a family.
The production quality isn't on par with the rest of this venue's work. Extremely minimal set, intentionally spoofy props and a one man band (albeit an incredibly talented one doubling as the music director, James Lent). However, the production value is right on the mark for a fun, energetic satire, just in time for seasonal disorder. It only takes a little to give a lot, of laughs that is. I can see the show lending itself to a more intimate space, like its Chicago home at the Royal George. However, I'm glad it can reach the larger audience it deserves at the Kirk Douglas. Spamilton runs at the Kirk Douglas Theatre through January 7, 2018. And jump on it while you can; ticket prices jumped up after just a few preview performances.