Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but parody as praise gets a lot more laughs. And when it comes to paying homage by poking fun, arguably no one has given the American musical the business quite like Gerard Alessandrini, the creator of the wildly successful “Forbidden Broadway.”
Over the past three decades, this wonderfully irreverent and deeply informed revue has had its way with countless shows — from “Les Misérables” to “Spider-Man” — and a host of Broadway luminaries, including Michael Crawford, Patti LuPone and Julie Taymor. Now, Alessandrini has turned his talented attention to that mountainously successful, rap-propelled reading of our nascent republic, “Hamilton.”
“Spamilton,” which opened off-Broadway last fall, makes its first appearance outside New York at Chicago’s Royal George Theatre beginning March 3. The production celebrates by spoofing not only the single-minded determination of the show’s creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, but the central role the big-stage musical has played in American entertainment.
“I love the form and over the decades I have enjoyed it most when it reinvents itself, finding new ways for characters to express themselves, new ways to convey a story,” Alessandrini says. “It seemed to me that in recent years, the Broadway musical had become a dead art, much like classical opera — lovely, familiar and rigid. But then along came ‘Hamilton,’ proving that theater can still be inspiring and full of new ideas.”
Alessandrini began his career doing regional theater and summer stock, before tweaking well-known musical numbers for a supper club act he’d worked up. All along, he’s been fearless in taking good-natured swipes at shows that many people adore. And while “Rent” and “Wicked” are sacred to some theatergoers, nothing quite compares to the impact “Hamilton” has had on audiences.
But Alessandrini had no qualms having fun with it. “First of all, I don’t think of it as a ‘sacred cow’ as much as a glorious triumph of storytelling and theatrical expression,” he says. “This is exactly the type of material that is ripe for satire. Our show has Beyoncé, Liza [Minnelli], J. Lo, President Obama and ‘The Book Of Mormon’ boys running around in comical desperation. ‘Spamilton’ is not so much a spoof of ‘Hamilton’ as it is a spoof of the ‘Hamilton’ era.”
March 3-May 29, Royal George Theatre’s Cabaret/Studio Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted. For tickets ($59-$99), visit Theroyalgeorgetheatre.com
Pictured at top: Chris Anthony Giles, Nicholas Edwards, Dan Rosales, Juwan Crawley and Nora Schell
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