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The Theatreguide.London Review

Menier Chocolate Factory  Summer 2018

Fast-moving and totally delightful, this latest edition of Forbidden Broadway, Gerard Alessandrini's biannual piss-takes of Broadway musicals, aims most of its satirical barbs at the biggest hit of recent decades, but has enough left over for plenty of other targets. 

The Forbidden Broadway series were all revues with sketches and parody songs sending up musicals and musical stars of the moment. Spamilton is an extended take-off of Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton. 

In place of the upstart Hamilton hoping to make his name in government, Alessandrini imagines young Miranda taking on the Broadway establishment. That's the cue for comic twists on Hamilton's plot and characters and new comic lyrics to its songs ('I'm not throwing away my pot,' 'I want to be in the film when it happens').

It is very very clever and very very witty, and you don't have to be a Hamilton fanatic to enjoy it though I was aware of audience members more familiar with the original lyrics laughing at in-jokes I missed. 

And there are plenty of non-Hamilton gags thrown in as well. The role of Benjamin Franklin is played by a mock-Stephen Sondheim warning Miranda that if he makes the songs too complex 'No one will listen,' while Hamilton's foes are now Phantom, Wicked and other musicals angry at having their audiences stolen. 

One two-minute song manages to reference Guys And Dolls, The Music Man, Singing In The Rain, Gypsy and The Unsinkable Molly Brown without straining, and most of the dance numbers have to fight the impulse to turn into Michael Jackson's Thriller choreography.

If there is one criticism to make it is that Alessandrini has always been reluctant to give up on favourite bits even when they're past their sell-by dates, and Spamilton is not significantly helped by shoehorning in cameo appearances by a faux Barbra and Liza.

(On the other hand, the very concepts of a Les Miz-Mamma Mia mash-up or The Lion King And I are totally self-justifying.) 

Hitting almost all its targets and, at a brisk 90 minutes, not outstaying its welcome, Spamilton is a perfect summer evening's entertainment for anyone who loves musicals and anyone who hates musicals.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review -  Spamilton - Menier Chocolate Factory Theatre 2018

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