NEW YORK — At last, Broadway’s most coveted badge of honor has been bestowed on “Hamilton.” I speak not of the Obamas’ lavish praise or the critics’ loud huzzahs or even its slew of Tony Awards and Pulitzer Prize.
The results are decidedly hit-and-miss, with lame skits segueing into funnier material and back again. But that kind of unevenness is in the DNA of “Forbidden Broadway,” which has been poking fun at Broadway hits since 1982. In other words, for forever.
For this new show, which had its official opening Thursday night, Alessandrini directs his sharpest barbs at the attitude of genuflecting theatergoers, who’ve elevated the musical to near-mystical status. To wit, he reworks the musical’s hip-hop score as the story not of Alexander Hamilton’s rise, but of Miranda’s. “Lin-Manuel as Hamilton,” goes the opening number, sung to the tune of the musical’s “Alexander Hamilton.” “That’s me, I’m Lin-Manuel as Hamilton. And there’s a million rhymes I haven’t trashed but/ Just you wait! Just you wait!”
The pony-tailed actor portraying Miranda, Dan Rosales, recreates with devastating accuracy the star’s slightly whiny, nasal inflections — an indication of how well-chosen these parodists are. The best piece of costuming, meanwhile is the hilarious wig that has been found for Nicholas Edwards, who cracklingly impersonates actor Daveed Diggs, he of the untamed Afro (and Tony-winning portrayals of General Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson).
As the self-anointed savior of a Great White Way that apparently was languishing in mediocrity, Rosales’s Miranda arrives to bring joy to the (well-heeled) ticket buyers. “I’m not going to let Broadway rot!” he sings, parodying one of the lines from the musical that’s quoted everywhere: “I’m not throwing away my shot!” Another of the lyrics that’s gone viral, “I wanna be in the room where it happens,” is sent up in one of the evening’s funniest moments, and delivered by actress Nora Schell, impersonating [star’s name redacted because it just wouldn’t be fair to reveal that here]. JuWan Crawley and Chris Anthony Giles round out the capable quintet, with two other performers, Christine Pedi and Glenn Bassett, materializing for cameos. They’re all accompanied expertly by pianist and music director Fred Barton.
“Spamilton” is no substitute for “Hamilton,” and still, a theater excursion that began at the lavishly praised musical and ended at the cabaret that shouts “phooey!” good naturedly back at it might be a day full of pleasurable symmetry.
Spamilton, created, written and directed by Gerard Alessandrini. With Christine Pedi and Glenn Bassett. Choreography, Gerry McIntyre; costumes, Dustin Cross; musical direction, Fred Barton; musical arrangements, Richard Danley; additional musical staging, John Znidarsic; sound, Matt Weber. About 75 minutes. Tickets, $59-$84.50. At Triad Theatre, 158 W. 72nd St., New York. Call 212-362-2590 or visit spamiltonnyc.com.