Any non-musical theatre nerds who stumble into ‘Spamilton’ are in for a fairly confusing night. ‘Forbidden Broadway’ creator Gerard Alessandrini’s parody musical assumes a thorough working knowledge of several decades worth of hit musicals, as well as passionate love of all things ‘Hamilton’. And not just the soundtrack or even the West End production: we're talking Broadway, baby, with every quirk of ‘Hamilton’ creator Lin-Manuel Miranda’s original lead performance sent up mercilessly, from his puppyish energy to squeaking falsetto.
The show romps through ‘Hamilton’s plot, rewording its songs and raps to narrate Miranda's journey to success. Sometimes it's pretty adorable: like a scene where Stephen Sondheim, a composer and lyricist so loved that he's nicknamed ‘God’, descends to offer our Lin a little sage fatherly advice. And sometimes it's juvenile and cringey. Lines like ‘I'm not throwing away my pot’ are a bit cheap. And styling Miranda as a greedy sell-out for penning the soundtrack to Disney’s wonderful, creatively ambitious ‘Moana’ feels a bit rich, given that the entire premise of ‘Spamilton’ is to piggyback on another show's success to bring in the musical theatre dollar.
The show's most interesting critique of ‘Hamilton’ comes from King George III: the dastardly British ruler whose brief recurring song steals the show so prodigiously that Michael Jibson's West End turn landed an Olivier. Here, the King explains how his role in ‘Hamilton’ revives the Disney-trope of the gay-coded British supervillain (think Jafar or Scar), as part of a show that brings a kind of determinedly rugged heterosexuality back to the traditionally camp land of musical theatre.
Elsewhere, the satire misses some obvious targets: like the way that ‘Hamilton’ tickets are so expensive that its audience is far whiter than the show's much-praised diverse cast. Or the gender politics that leave its female characters to carry the torch for its motormouthed male geniuses.
The seven-strong cast make mincemeat of the material, especially the two female performers: Sophie Louise-Dann's interpretations of legendary Broadway divas like Liza Minnelli are a treat, and Julie Yammanee switches effortlessly from rap to virtuoso soul. But this spam-filled show still feels like a weirdly secondary exercise – without enough meat to make a meal on its own.