Review: Spamilton (Royal George Theatre)

| April 21, 2017

Yando Lopez and Eric Andrew Lewis star in Spamilton at Royal George Theatre            
      

  

Spamilton
   
Written by Gerard Alessandrini
Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted (map)  
open run  |  tix: $50-$55  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets   
     


    
  

A near-perfect musical parody

  

Donterrio Johnson, Yando Lopez, Eric Andrew Lewis, David Robbins and Michelle Lauto

    
Royal George Theatre presents
    
Spamilton

Review by Catey Sullivan

If you’ve seen any of the incarnations of Gerard Alessandrini’s Forbidden Broadway spoofs you probably don’t need much incentive to check out Spamilton. If Forbidden Broadway is an unknown entity to you, know this: Spamilton is a dingitty dang dong near-perfect parody of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s ultra-mega blockbuster.

Yando Lopez and Eric Andrew Lewis star in Spamilton at Royal George TheatreIt works for two big reasons: First, Alessandrini has apparently all-but memorized the Hamilton book and score. That means Spamilton is a hilariously on-point (warped) replica of the original. Second, the ensemble – Donterrio Johnson, Adam LaSalle, Michelle Lauto, Eric Andrew Lewis, Yando Lopez and David Robbins – is an assemblage of genuine, full-tilt triple threats. Spamilton requires the same wordsmithery and vocal chops as the original. This group delivers. They can sing, dance and act as well as anybody you’ll see in Hamilton.

The problem with many parodies is that they dumb-down their target material and deliver their shtick with inferior performers. It’s easy to poke fun at someone by simply making them sound stupid and clunky. But for satire to really work, it has to match its source in terms of intelligence and musicality. Spamilton does that, from the opening number to the finale.

The central figure onstage is Yando Lopez, who dons a spot-on ponytail wig to play Miranda. When he fervently proclaims he is “not going to let Broadway rot” you can all but hear the real Miranda spitting the lyrics to “My Shot.” Playing Miranda (aka the “shining beacon Puerto Rican”) in Spamilton is the musical theater equivalent of running a marathon – Lopez is charged with playing the composer and the composer-as-Hamilton, and succeeding in making both satirically sharp.

Yando pulls all this off with a mix of manic energy, technically impeccable vocals and bullseye sense of comic timing. Lopez is no stranger to the Miranda aesthetic – he was in the ensemble of Porchlight Music Theatre’s In the Heights. His expertise with the composer’s rapid-fire raps certainly shows, and Spamilton is all the funnier for it.

Yando Lopez and Donterrio Johnson star in Spamilton at Royal George Theatre ChicagoEric Andrew Lewis, Donterrio Johnson, Yando Lopez and David Robbins star in Spamilton

Yando is joined by another In the Heights vet, Michelle Lauto. Lauto shone as the upwardly mobile siren Vanessa in Porchlight’s production. She’s also on fire in Spamilton, playing the Schuyler sisters as well as showing up in cameos as Liza, Bernadette and Barbra. Like Lopez, Laureto has major vocal powers and a keen sense of comedy. Her puppet show trio is a high point of the show, as is her wrenching, emotionally manipulative take on Hamilton’s uber-emotional finale.

Donterrio Johnson makes off with numerous scenes, delivering a Jefferson/Lafayette who mines endless humor from a double-cast role that requires Lafayette to disappear after the first act. He leads the charge on “What Did You Miss,” a song that chastises Hamilton for expecting its audiences to keep track of the endless political and historical plot points that unfold between the Battle of Yorktown and the Second Continental Congress.

Eric Andrew Lewis, Michelle Lauto and David Robbins star in SpamiltonEric Andrew Lewis, Donterrio Johnson, Yando Lopez, David Robbins and Michelle Lauto

As the perpetually out-maneuvered and perpetually disrespected Aaron Burr, Eric Andrew Lewis makes the most of the tormented anti-hero. He gets a justified showstopper in “The Film When it Happens,” a number that (to the tune of “In the Room Where it Happens”) elucidates the commercial horrors sure to accompany the inevitable movie version of Hamilton. (One of them: Neil Patrick Harris will play Hamilton.)

David Robbins holds his own as the bullishly energetic Hercules Mulligan, deftly sending up the tailor revolutionary tired of sewing some pants. Finally, there’s 24-carat comic gold in Adam LaSalle’s King George. Crooning “Straight is Back,” he delivers a laugh-until-you-cry homage to Hamilton’s manliness. LaSalle is on the piano for the show as well, and his skills there are dazzling.

You don’t need to have seen Hamilton to get Spamilton. If you’re familiar with Miranda’s work, you may well bust a gut guffawing. If you aren’t, you’ll still find much to laugh about here. Either way, Spamilton has the makings of a hit.

  
Rating: ★★★½
  

Spamilton continues through open run at  Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted (map), with performances Tuesdays-Fridays at 7:30pm, Saturdays 5pm & 8pm, Sundays 2pm & 5pm.  Tickets are $50-$55, and are available by phone (312-988-9000) or online through Ticketmaster.com (check for availability of half-price tickets). More information at Spamilton.com/Chicago(Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes, includes an intermission)

David Robbins, Michelle Lauto, Eric Andrew Lewis, Yando Lopez and Donterrio Johnson

Photos by Michael Brosilow 


  

artists

cast

Donterrio Johnson, Adam LaSalle, Michelle Lauto, Eric Andrew Lewis, Yando Lopez, David Robbins.

behind the scenes

Gerard Alessandrini (author, director), Fred Barton (music direction), Gerry McIntyre (choreography), Dustin Cross (costume design), Milo Blue (set design), Andy Kloubec (lighting design), Matt Reich (sound design), Jamie Karas (props), Leah Munsey-Konops (wig design), Richard Darnley, Fred Barton (musical arrangements), Michael Brosilow (photos)

Michelle Lauto, Donterrio Johnson and Eric Andrew Lewis star in Spamilton

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Category: 2017 Reviews, Catey Sullivan, Musical Revue, Open Run, Parody, Royal George Theatre, Video, YouTube

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