A beautifully charming take-off on the new nature of American Musical Theatre is now playing in the intimate setting provided at Playhouse on Park, partly by courtesy of the Bushnell, who realized that its theaters were too big for the production and reached out to the Playhouse folks to see if they would host the touring company for them.
First reaction was negative. “We don’t like to present. We like to produce,” said Tracy Flater, POP’s Executive Director. But then they said yes, and worried that the visiting director and his company would not “get” the best way to use the Playhouse Stage. The compromise works beautifully, IMHO. The quick transitions, the stylish costumes, and the magnificent dancing, could tempt one to believe that Darlene Zoller had coached the choreography and Sean Harris the timing of entrance or exit. That would have meant that the three founders of POP were holding sway. But in fact, they’re not even mentioned in the Playbill and the company of “Spamilton” is on its own.
Gerard Alessandrini, the legendary creator of “Forbidden Broadway,” is the muscle behind the movements in “Spamilton,” which gently parodies a lot of recent Broadway musicals, but focuses on “Hamilton” for its great success and style. So, the company appears most often in 18th century tights and vests, and the opening number is sung in quick spurts of Lin-Manuel Miranda rap-like rhythmic couplets.
There is no question about whether this is an ensemble production – it is! – but it is also beautifully configured to give each actor (most playing more than one persona) several chances to take the spotlight. Adrian Lopez command as Lin-Manuel is marvelous. Paloma D’Auria plays all the leading ladies and adds Ave.-Q-like Muppets early on. A striking Datus Puryear sings Aaron Burr complaining that he won’t be well remembered. Brandon Kinley presents a remarkable King George III. Dominic Peckonis does a smashing take, complete with hair style, on the actor, Daveed Diggs. And Chuckie Benson, who voices Ben Franklin and George Washington, also serves as the dance captain for Gerry McIntyre’s vigorous choreography, which this troupe performs with such excitement that it remains one of the lasting memories of the production.
The live music that pushes each piece forward was arranged by Fred Barton but is performed by Music Director Curtis Reynolds non-stop on a grand piano. The minimal set – a large poster that allows entrance and egress from either side – was designed by Glenn Bassett, and Dustin Cross put together the costumes that reflect scenes or actors from a multitude of musicals, from “the King and I” to “Wicked” and anything in between.
Bottom Line: You can’t help but appreciate the energy and fun that bubbles out of this production and its beautiful cast. If you’re any kind of a theatre-buff, you’ll want to catch it while you can. Tickets and information are available at www.PlayhouseonPark.org, or by calling 860-523-5900 x10.
Tom Nissley for the Ridgelea Reports on Theatre – August 23, 2019