THEATRE: SPAMILTON

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SPAMILTON

I first saw Spamilton in New York just about a year ago, and could not wait for it to come to Los Angeles, so all my pals could finally see just what I’ve been raving about for all this time!!!

Photo by Craig Schwartz.

Photo by Craig Schwartz.

In case you haven’t figured it out, Spamilton is a parody of the Broadway mega-hit musical Hamilton. And it’s super-clever. I was worried that since I had built it up in my mind so much over the past year, I might not love it as much once it got to LA. But I was impressed all over again.

For my fellow bi-coastal peeps, I’m comparing the LA version of Spamilton to the New York production a bit, but this one really stands on its own merits. The actual show is just about the same as before; it’s just the atmosphere that’s different. I believe it’s moved venues in the Big Apple since I saw it, but back then, it was done in a very interesting off-Broadway theatre, located above a Turkish restaurant! Here, it’s in the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City, which, as also-interesting as that venue is, does not emulate the “Joe sent me” vibe, so it’s a whole other experience. But the Douglas adds its own flavor because their lobby is so conducive to mingling.

Photo by Craig Schwartz.

Photo by Craig Schwartz.

But, forgetting all that, the only-eighty-minutes-long musical is still a hoot and a half. And there’s some new material to reflect newer Broadway offerings that have opened since the inception of Spamilton.

The show must be exhausting to perform because it’s full of non-stop energy and entertainment, with tons of surprises all the way through.  Each actor gives it his or her all. I have a feeling they each must lose ten pounds per performance! And wouldn’t it be funny if anyone from the cast goes on to appear in actual Hamilton out here?! We know they all have the chops, and can certainly rap!

I hadn’t seen Hamilton itself at the time that I saw the New York production, and guess what? I still haven’t! And it still doesn’t matter, even though the timing of this opening couldn’t be more perfect since Angelenos have had the opportunity to see that hit out here for a few months now. But even though this take-off is predominantly of Hamilton, it’s not the only Broadway show that’s parodied in this one.

William Cooper Howell. Photo by Craig Schwartz.

William Cooper Howell. Photo by Craig Schwartz.

The cast gives many others at least a hilarious little mention in this jam-packed outing. Occasionally even only a tiny reference (such as the line “525,600 minutes” from Rent) drew huge guffaws from the opening night audience.

One of the best things about this mainly five person staging (with two extra performers here and there) is that you don’t need to be very familiar with Broadway musicals. But I have to admit that it does help a bit. If you miss one or two references, though, I promise that it’s no biggie. I totally understood what was going on, just by seeing the Hamilton numbers on the Tony Awards, and by knowing a little bit here and there about other musicals. (And don’t forget—we in LA are lucky enough to have opportunities to see many Broadway hits right in our own backyards because of kind theatres like the Ahmanson!)

Adorable William Cooper Howell, who is a zillion times better looking than this picture portrays!  (Been there, done that.) Photo by Ryan Miller.

Adorable William Cooper Howell, who is a zillion times better looking than this picture portrays! (Been there, done that.) Photo by Ryan Miller.

From what I understand, Hamilton is mainly all rap music. I’m a big fan of Lin-Manuel Miranda, (the guy who wrote that whole show and was the original star–duh.) But sometimes, I cannot understand his words. Spamilton is also rap after rap, but they are all very funny raps, and ones we can make-out, to boot!

This entire cast is new, and uber-talented; they’re all wonderful singers, are able to rap, (which is not easy,) be funny, move, and, in some cases, be impersonators. When I saw it in New York, I didn’t think that anyone outside of the guy who starred as Lin-Manuel there could ever do the role justice. But I was wrong (I guess there’s a first time for everything,) because I’m absolutely in love with William Cooper Howell, the guy who stars in Spamilton here. Not only is he perfect and can really rap, (while being one hundred percent understood,) but his singing is stunning! If the whole evening had been just him singing, I would have still been thrilled! And when he took off his Lin-Manuel wig for the curtain call, we could see that he’s adorable. I talked to him for a bit at the after-party, so I’m happy to report that he’s also darling. And appreciative! I love that guy!

Zakiya Young and Dedrick A. Bonner. Photo by Craig Schwartz.

Zakiya Young and Dedrick A. Bonner. Photo by Craig Schwartz.

Also outstanding is Zakiya Young, the lone female in the troupe. Her singing voice is beautiful! And it seems like she has to play every single female part ever written on Broadway! Not an easy task, but she performs it all with aplomb. I do have to admit that I had a tad of trouble making-out her words in one of the early songs where she spoofs all the women in Hamilton, but I’d kill to have her perfect arms, so I may have been distracted by them during that number.

The only one slight weakness in this whole presentation is the piano player. I can see that this is a super hard production to be the only musical accompaniment for, and the work is non-stop for the entire duration, but, on opening night, this guy was often too loud, and was missing the beat for some of it. I was happy to see that those little snafus didn’t throw the singers in the slightest.

The main cast's opening night curtain call.  (L-R) Dedrick A. Bonner, Wilkie Ferguson III, William Cooper Howell, Zakiya Young, and John Devereaux.  Photo by Ryan Miller.

The main cast’s opening night curtain call. (L-R) Dedrick A. Bonner, Wilkie Ferguson III, William Cooper Howell, Zakiya Young, and John Devereaux. Photo by Ryan Miller.

On a side note, I have to laud lovely Lin-Manuel for giving his blessing to Spamilton. I hate to admit it, but many moons ago, when SCTV called my former TV series to get permission to parody moi, I was not as gracious. (Perhaps that was because I knew I was a small fry, so no one would know just whom they were spoofing, which means I wouldn’t even get the credit for just being me to begin with, but still…) I’m such a fan of his to begin with, (and his Hamilton accomplishments are even way down the list of what I love about the guy, with his wedding video and his love for his wife being numbers one and two,) and his being great about this show makes me admire him even more.

Part of the opening night party crowd. Photo by Karen Salkin.

Part of the opening night party crowd. Photo by Karen Salkin.

Okay, let’s get to more fun stuff about the opening! When the presentation was over, the entire assemblage poured into the Douglas lobby for a celebratory fete. Actually, a super nice touch of the evening was that they served complimentary champagne even before the show began!!!  What a kind touch. That’s when I spied some fun peeps, like Modern Family’s Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who seems to always be supporting Center Theatre Group’s productions. I applaud him for that, and join him in those efforts.

The fun shots situation at the bar. Photo by Karen Salkin, as is the big one at the top of the page.

The fun shots situation at the bar. Photo by Karen Salkin, as is the big one at the top of the page.

The party was super upbeat, which you know I love being a part of. So many LA theaters don’t have opening night parties anymore, which is a shame. They always seemed to put the period on the sentence, and I love reporting on them, just as much as on the shows themselves. And I know you guys always love reading the scoops on them. So I really thank the Douglas for this shindig.

The bar had a variety of beverages, and they also served some special shots, (which I understand they will be doing for the entire run.) Being passed was the most different variety of snacks I’ve ever seen. There were mini pork empanadas, crabs cakes, pulled pork sliders, hummus in cucumbers, and deviled e-words in cups! (You know I didn’t go near that last one.) And for dessert, there were mini bread pudding squares, topped with caramel.

Standing--the entire cast of Spamilton.  In front is  Gerard Alessandrini, the creator, writer, director!  Photo by Ryan Miller.

Standing–the entire cast of Spamilton. In front is Gerard Alessandrini, the creator, writer, director! Photo by Ryan Miller.

But this party was not about the food—it was about this effervescent production and the people involved—no one even wanted to sit down! The whole place was buzzing with excitement for what we had just seen on stage.

And for that, I’d have to say that most of the credit goes to Gerard Alessandrini, the man who not only conceived the show, but wrote it all and directed, as well! I can’t even imagine one person doing all that, but I’d love a tour through his mind some time.

To me, Spamilton is the perfect musical entertainment. And the Douglas, one of the easiest theatres in town, with no bad seats, is the exact place to be showcasing it. So maybe, instead of spending your life’s savings to see Hamilton in Hollywood, head to Culver City instead, and have perhaps an even better time!

Spamilton running through January 7, 2018
Kirk Douglas Theatre 9820 Washington Blvd. Culver City www.centertheatregroup.org/visit/kirk-douglas-theatre

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