Today, the producers of “Spamilton,” the critically acclaimed parody of “Hamilton,” will extend its Chicago production for an open-ended run at the Royal George Theatre (1641 N. Halsted). Created by Tony Award honoree Gerard Alessandrini, the mastermind behind “Forbidden Broadway,” “Spamilton” officially opened in Chicago on March 12 to rave reviews, with Hedy Weiss of the Chicago Sun-Times calling “Spamilton” an “altogether brilliant, hilarious, cliché-demolishing send-up of ‘Hamilton,’” Chris Jones of Chicago Tribune noting “You really don’t want to miss ‘Spamilton,’” and Barbara Vitello of the Daily Herald exclaiming the show is “deliciously silly. The laughs come fast and furious!” The all-Chicago “Broadway ready” (Chicago Sun-Times) cast includes Donterrio Johnson, Adam LaSalle, Michelle Lauto, Eric Andrew Lewis, Yando Lopez and David Robbins. Tickets for “Spamilton” are available now with additional performances to be added on a regular basis. Tickets ($59 – $99) can be purchased at the Royal George Theatre’s box office online, at Ticketmaster.com or by calling 312.988.9000.
“We feel very fortunate to have found such success here in Chicago with the talented local company we’ve brought together at the Royal George. This Chicago cast is unbelievably great!” said Alessandrini. “What a way to be welcomed to the Windy City! We can’t wait to see what the summer holds for the success of ‘Spamilton’ here in Chicago.”
“Spamilton,” which was initially scheduled in New York as an exclusive 18-performance off-Broadway engagement, has extended three times and is now playing its ninth smash month of an open engagement at the Triad (158 West 72nd Street). The New York production earned rave reviews across-the-board, with Ben Brantley of The New York Times calling it “smart, silly and convulsively funny!” and Lin-Manuel Miranda exclaiming “I laughed my brains out!” In its Chicago premiere, the local cast received additional acclaim, with critics hailing the production “endlessly entertaining” (Performink), “A Must-See!” (BroadwayWorld.com), and “razor sharp and filled with wit and humor” (Chicago Theatre Review). On Opening Night, cast members from the Chicago production of “Hamilton” were in the audience, and following the performance Wayne Brady called the production “Amazing! It’s the perfect blend of funny and parody. Go see ‘Spamilton!”
In addition to Alessandrini, the creative team includes Gerry McIntyre (Choreography), Dustin Cross (Costume Design), Milo Blue (Scenic Design), Andy Kloubec (Lighting Design), Matt Reich (Sound Design), Jamie Karas (Prop Design), Leah Munsey-Konops (Wig Design), Fred Barton (Musical Director), and Richard Danley and Fred Barton (Musical Arrangements).
“Spamilton” is produced in Chicago by John Freedson, David Zippel, Gerard Alessandrini, Margaret Cotter and Liberty Theatricals, in association with JAM Theatricals. Chuckie Benson and Ariel Richardson are the understudies for the production.
The performance schedule for “Spamilton” is as follows: Tuesdays through Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. For additional details, visit Ticketmaster.com or TheRoyalGeorgeTheatre.com.
For more information, visit Spamilton.com.
The hip-hop Broadway in Chicago sensation Hamilton, which, has spawned a secondary market in pricey theater tickets, has also delivered a pair of spin-offs. Shamilton, an improv riff at the Apollo, and now, notably, Spamilton, a send up of the original musical about the founding fathers of the U.S.
Is it funny if you haven’t seen the original? The short answer is yes – because following the opening sets based on Hamilton, the show quickly turns its sites on other long-time Broadway shows like Cats and Phantom of the Opera, warhorses like Camelot, and shows of more recent vintage like Wicked and Book of Mormon.
The creative force behind the show is Gerard Alessandrini, the originator of the 1982 "Forbidden Broadway," which was similar in format, and has been rewritten and updated more than a dozen times. It has played around the world, including Chicago - I’ve seen two different versions here.
For all practical purposes, Spamilton is the newest Forbidden Broadway, and on some levels it exceeds the earlier ones in appeal.
The key to the storyline is Broadway’s perpetual and desperate struggle to save itself, and to create a new vision of the big musical show. Show business has been mired in novelties like Book of Mormon and the puppet-based Avenue Q; overproduced extravaganza with no memorable songs, like Spiderman; or Sondheim light operetta that those outside the cognoscenti may find hard to sit through.
Alessandrini picks up this scent of desperation, and seizes on Broadway producers struggles with wickedly funny original song and dance numbers that sample or mash-up the originals. Clinging to revivals of Rogers & Hammerstein or Leonard Bernstein; turning over theaters to somewhat vapid Disney productions like Aladdin and Newsies, these producers become fodder for fun in Spamilton.
The show parodies this desperation with another extreme: combining previously successful shows.
A perfect example comes around 10 minutes in, as the Spamilton players switch gears and time periods to present The Lion King & I. Anna the English Governess in hoop skirts dons a Julie Traymor head set in a duet with a squawking animal character. Let’s say I chortled heartily.
The show runs at a mad-cap pace, and even if you don’t get all the references, it’s still funny. A scene of an axe wielding gentleman clad just in Fruit of the Looms is a send up of American Psycho (I think, after Googling). It was funny even though I didn’t know exactly what the reference was.
Wicked and Book of Mormon – once the pricey ‘it’ shows, now discounting tickets like any other production – get nailed pointedly, having yielded star status to Hamilton. Scenes are punctuated by a running gag: homeless ladies in rags begging for Hamilton tickets – understood to be based on true stories of famous stars desperate for seating.
A Barbra Streisand impersonation finds the aging diving singing in signature reverb, advising that when Hamilton is filmed, she wants to play a role in “The Film When It Happens.” Likewise, J-Lo and Gloria Estefan walk-on, each hoping to tap the mojo of Hamilton. Liza Minnelli appears, but runs the other direction - and asks that rap be banned on Broadway, so they can “bring back the tunes.”
The show reveals broader awareness in a number, Straight is Back, which laments the loss of gay show tunes and glitter, as productions like Hamilton skew to more manly styles.
You can get a taste of Spamilton from the original New York cast album, just released. But it pales compared to the experience of seeing this cast of amazing dancers and singers, and their great comedic timing: Donterrio Johnson, Michelle Lauto, Eric Andrew Lewis, Yando Lopez, David Robbins, and guest diva Christine Pedi (she's the Streisand character among others), with musical direction by Adam LaSalle.
While Hamilton’s original star Lin-Manuel Miranda love “laughed my brains out!" when he saw the show, during last Sunday’s production the Chicago cast of Hamilton was in the audience – and they had a blast.
Gerry McIntyre did the choreography; Dustin Cross gets Costume Design; , Fred Barton (Musical Director), and Richard Danley and Fred Barton (Musical Arrangements). "Spamilton" is produced in Chicago by John Freedson, David Zippel, Gerard Alessandrini, Margaret Cotter and Liberty Theatricals, in association with JAM Theatricals. Chuckie Benson and Arielle Richardson are the understudies the production.
“Spamilton,” the critically acclaimed off-Broadway parody of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s sensation, “Hamilton,” has set casting for its regional premiere in Chicago at the Royal George Theatre (1641 N. Halsted). Created by Tony Award honoree Gerard Alessandrini, the mastermind behind “Forbidden Broadway,” the “smart, silly and compulsively funny show” (The New York Times) features an all-Chicago ensemble including Donterrio Johnson, Adam LaSalle, Michelle Lauto, Eric Andrew Lewis, Yando Lopez and David Robbins. “Spamilton” begins performances Friday, March 3 at the Royal George Theatre’s Cabaret/Studio Theatre. The Press Opening is set for Sunday, March 12 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets ($59 – $99) can be purchased at the Royal George Theatre’s box office online or by calling 312.988.9000.
“We couldn’t have been more thrilled by Chicago’s pool of incredible talent,” said Alessandrini. “We hope ‘Spamilton’ will be as lively and hysterically funny as ‘Hamilton’ is provocative. It is a tall order, but we are going to try to make Chicago a happier town than ever and keep the audience roaring with delight.”
“Spamilton” celebrates, roasts and eviscerates the Broadway blockbuster with its versatile cast of six. In its world-premiere production off-Broadway in New York, the show has been extended three times and is now in its fifth smash month at the Triad. The New York production earned rave reviews across the board, hailed as "the next best thing to seeing ‘Hamilton’” (The New York Times), “so infectiously fun,” (The Hollywood Reporter) and had Lin-Manuel Miranda exclaiming “I laughed my brains out!”
In addition to Alessandrini, the creative team includes Gerry McIntyre (Choreography), Dustin Cross (Costume Design), Fred Barton (Musical Director), and Richard Danley and Fred Barton (Musical Arrangements). “Spamilton” is produced in Chicago by John Freedson, David Zippel, Gerard Alessandrini, Margaret Cotter and Liberty Theatricals, in association with JAM Theatricals. Chuckie Benson is the understudy for the production.
The performance schedule for “Spamilton” is as follows: Tuesdays through Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.
About the Artists of “Spamilton”
Gerard Alessandrini (Creator) is best known for creating and writing all 25 editions of “Forbidden Broadway” in New York, Los Angeles, London and around the world. Alessandrini was featured in the original 1982 cast of “Forbidden Broadway” and can be heard on four of the 12 “Forbidden Broadway” cast albums. He also sings on the soundtracks of the Disney classics “Aladdin” and “Pocahontas.” Television credits include writing comedy specials for Bob Hope, Angela Lansbury and Carol Burnett. Directing credits include Maury Yeston’s musical “In the Beginning.” Recent musicals which he co-wrote and/or directed include “Madame X” (NYMF 2011) and “The Nutcracker and I,” featuring a complete Tchaikovsky score with all new lyrics by Alessandrini. As a director, he’s currently working on an upcoming revue focusing on the songs of Maury Yeston entitled “Anything Can Happen (In the Theater).” Alessandrini is the recipient of an Obie Award, two Lucille Lortel Awards, a Lifetime Achievement award from the Drama League, and seven Drama Desk Awards. Alessandrini was also awarded an Honorary Tony Award for Excellence in the Theatre.
Donterrio Johnson (Male Two) is an alumni of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy of Los Angeles and an Artistic Ensemble Member of Pride Films and Plays. Johnson’s theater credits include “Annie Warbucks” (Theatre at the Center); “Next To Normal” and “Urinetown” (Boho Theatre); “The Hundred Dresses” and “Mr. Chickee's Funny Money” (Chicago Children's Theatre); “Sweeney Todd” (Denver Center for the Performing Arts); “Murder Ballad” (Cardinal Stage); “Lookingglass Alice” (Lookingglass Theatre); “Jesus Christ Superstar” (Theo Ubique); “Ain’t Misbehavin” and “Golden Boy” (Porchlight Music Theatre); “The Color Purple” and “Avenue Q” (Mercury Theatre); “Rent” (Brightside Theatre); “Under a Rainbow Flag” (Pride Films and Plays); “Hairspray” (SRO Productions); and “Urinetown,” “Aladdin The Musical,” “Into The Woods” and “Kennedy The Musical” (Broadway Workshop). His TV credits include USA’s “Sirens.”
Adam LaSalle’s (Pianist/King George) Chicago musical direction and piano credits include “24 Words” (Stage 773); “Nunsense” (Beverly Arts Center); “Rebel” (Theatre Wit); and a number of revues, concerts, and cabarets at the Promontory and as a regular at Davenport's Piano Bar and Cabaret in Wicker Park. Some favorite roles he's performed include Jesus in “Godspell,” Tommy Albright in “Brigadoon” and the Pirate King in “Pirates of Penzance.” LaSalle has also accompanied and music directed with Memphis' Playhouse on the Square Musical Theatre Education Program, The Chicago Children's Choir, ChiArts, SummerSing's International Choral Festival in Cork City, Ireland and a number of musicals for the Souza Scholarship Theatre Program in Orange County, New York.
Michelle Lauto’s (Female Performer) recent credits include “In the Heights” (Porchlight Music Theatre); “Xanadu” (American Theater Company); “35mm” (Circle Theatre); “The Boy From Oz” (Pride Films and Plays); and “Murder Ballad” (Bailiwick Chicago). Lauto is a proud graduate of The Second City Training Center Conservatory.
Eric A. Lewis (Male Three) was last seen in Theatre at the Center's production of "My Way: A Tribute to Frank Sinatra." His Chicago credits include “The Little Mermaid,” “In the Heights” and “Tommy” (Paramount Theatre); “Dreamgirls” (Porchlight Music Theatre); “Once Upon a People” (Black Ensemble Theater); “Parade” (BoHo Theatre); “How to Succeed in Business,” “Sister Act” and “Suessical the Musical” (Marriott Theatre); and “Dreamgirls” (Milwaukee Repertory Theater).
Yando Lopez (Male One) was last seen in “The Christians” at Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Recent credits include “In the Heights” and “Sondheim on Sondheim” (Porchlight Music Theatre); “Little Shop of Horrors” (American Blues Theatre); “In the Heights” (Paramount Theatre); and “Barney the Elf” (Other Theatre Company). Lopez has also worked with Court Theatre, Chicago Children’s Theatre, Emerald City, Brown Paper Box, Black Ensemble Theatre and Goodman Theatre. Lopez is a proud Northwestern alum.
David Robbins (Male Four) is a Chicago native, an alumni of The Chicago Academy for the Arts and attended Baldwin Wallace University. Robbins’ regional credits include “Memphis,” “Rent,” “Once on this Island,” “Avenue Q” and “Phantom of the Opera.”
For more information, visit Spamilton.com.
Although the idea of two gay friends, Hunter and Jeff, sitting down to write their own musical for a competition deadline in three weeks’ time may seem a little bit dated, these performers including Matt Frye, and Yando Lopez do a great job of making the piece seem vibrant and current. Hunter and Jeff who love watching their reality TV like the Bachelor and "procrasturbating" introduce two of their gal friends to help them fill out the cast with Susan (Neala Barron) and Heidi (Anna Schutz). The group decides to take things they’re actually chatting about daily and eventually come up with a play about their own lives and trying to get into the playwrights festival. This is the theme for [Title of Show] now playing at Rivendell Theatre.
Long story short, they end up getting thrilled with an invite to enter into the Fest and eventually a short Off-Broadway and even shorter Broadway run all of which is exciting and mind blowing for the friendly foursome. As it happens it brings about the usual problems with managing who gets credit for what and who is the most important or likable part of the show.
I loved the song, 'Die, Vampire Die’ about managing all of the negative, "bloodsucking" thoughts that weigh on you mentally and emotionally when you are trying to create something new.
Neala Barron as the "corporate by day, creative by night' - part time actress - has the funniest and most well-rounded performance in this piece. Matt Frye as Hunter is also very funny and really makes the most of his character.
Lovers of the musical theater genre will adore this peppy, fast moving production and see themselves reflected in all the characters' struggles to be recognized and stand out including the sole musician, a very funny role for a pianist with just a few choice lines.
The reason this show still works and is timely despite coming out in 2008, is that even today with all of the new opportunities for performers to write and star in their own projects for the many contests held online and on national TV, is that for everyone eventually realizes that a little bit of success is just not enough.
Just appearing in a show on Broadway will not make you and your friends "stars". Nor will it secure you financially in any way for the rest of your lives. There is also a funny number in the show where the cast counts out all of the "loser” musicals that made it to Broadway and flopped.
Yet it is essential that actors still persist in taking over their own careers and write their own projects or they run the risk of playing bit parts their entire lives without ever realizing their full potential as writers and creators, always working the "day job" and waiting helplessly for the phone to ring with a magical call from their agents.
Well-directed, this 90 minute piece flows at a quick, funny pace.
All actors should be actor/writers, that's the best message of this show, not to let the fear of criticism cripple you from putting out your own work and maintaining loyalty to the friends who help you get your work out. Because, after all the success and thrill ride for each project is over, you still need to get up and keep writing and creating something new for yourself with your friends close by your side. Never give up and never let the pressures of making a name for yourself eclipse the importance of the daily life you are actually living because in the end you may find the journey itself really was the whole play!
[Title of Show] is playing at Rivendell Theatre through August 16th.
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