Kirk Douglas Theatre

Lust, secrets, murder: Dive into the drag-rific world of 'Die, Mommie, Die!'

--Los Angeles Times  May 17, 2018


Before he established himself with the Tony-nominated play "The Tale of the Allergist's Wife," Charles Busch was the undisputed king of camp, best known for cheesy B-movie parodies starring himself as leading ladies on missions of salacious self-satisfaction and murder.

That's certainly the tenor of Busch's "Die, Mommie, Die!" — the final offering of Center Theatre Group's second annual Block Party, in which three shows from smaller houses are chosen to be remounted as full productions at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City.

All those who missed the 2017 "Mommie" at the Celebration Theatre will get another bite of the apple, complete with the hidden razors of Busch's wit. Backed by CTG's resources, the Douglas production is lavishly produced in every particular.

The original design team from the Celebration — scenic designer Pete Hickok, lighting designer Matthew Brian Denman and sound designer Rebecca Kessin — deliver superb results onstage, all reveling in upgraded budgets. Allison Dillard's sumptuously tacky costumes, so garish they will have you reaching for your sunglasses in a darkened theater, are particular standouts.

Director Ryan Bergmann is another holdover from the original production, as is his blissfully accomplished cast, spearheaded by Drew Droege in a flouncing, uproarious drag turn that brings down the house.

The action is set in 1967 Beverly Hills in the mansion of failed musical actress Angela Arden (Droege). Angela is unhappily married to film producer Sol (Pat Towne), whose cloying relationship with their daughter, Edith (Julanne Chidi Hill), is anything but wholesome.

Meanwhile, Angela is carrying on with protuberant tennis pro Tony Parker (Andrew Carter), who becomes the object of lust to both Edith and Angela's gay son, Lance (Tom DeTrinis). Angela's husband Sol is adored from afar by Bootsie (Gina Torrecilla), the family's long-time, long-simmering housekeeper. When Angela decides to poison Sol, a cascade of dark family secrets comes to light — improbably, histrionically and hilariously.

In Bergmann's comically shrewd staging, never let it be said that any of these actors is guilty of a subtle gesture. Masters of the double take and double entendre, they take us on a plunge into the playfully down-and-dirty.

Take a deep breath before immersion. And enjoy.

‘Die, Mommie, Die!’

Where: Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City

When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday; ends Sunday

Tickets: $25-$70

Information: (213) 628-2772 or

Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes

Review: Block Party 2018 Ends with Campy Noir Classic DIE, MOMMIE, DIE! at the Kirk Douglas Theatre  May 14, 2018



Written by Charles Busch and directed by Ryan Bergmann, the Celebration Theatre's production of DIE, MOMMIE, DIE! is being remounted by Center Theatre Group at the Kirk Douglas Theatre as the final selection of the second annual Block Party for which they received 53 submissions from intimate theatre companies in the greater Los Angeles area. Block Party 2018 also remounted Playwrights' Arena's production of "Bloodletting" and Critical Mass Performance Group's production of "Ameryka," with the three visiting companies each receiving the full support of Center Theatre Group and its staff in order to fund, stage and market each production.

For those not familiar with the unique style of Charles Busch, he is an American actor, screenwriter, playwright, and female impersonator known for his appearances on stage in his own camp style plays, as well as in film and television. He is the author of "The Tale of the Allergist's Wife" which ran for nearly two years on Broadway and received a Tony Award nomination for Best Play. He wrote and starred in the film versions of his plays "Psycho Beach Party" and "Die Mommie Die!" with the latter winning him the Best Performance Award at the Sundance Film Festival. In 2003, Mr. Busch received a special Drama Desk Award for career achievement as both performer and playwright.

His play DIE, MOMMIE, DIE! is a campy noir classic that follows the devious actions of fading Hollywood star Angela Arden, played to the hilt by Drew Droege in drag. Think of Gloria Swanson in "Sunset Boulevard" and throw in a bit of Joan Crawford's attitude and you get the idea of who Angela Arden is. And let me tell you, Droege is a wonder running across the stage in high heels, always dressed to feminine perfection by costumer Allison Dillard. But Angela is trapped in an unhappy marriage and plots to kill her husband, Hollywood producer Sol Sussman (Pat Towne) in order to be with her young, and very well-hung lover Tony Parker (Andrew Carter). His endowment is a running gag throughout the play, aimed at almost every other character at some point, a bit too suggestive and sexy for young audiences.

But when Angela's children, Daddy's Girl Edith (mini-skirt clad Julanne Chidi Hill) and joyously gay Lance (Tom Detrinis who flits and floats in feathers around the stage) learn of her plot, they join forces to seek their own revenge. And all the while, Angela's housekeeper Bootsie (Gina Torrecilla) goes about her business, often loudly promoting her conservative Republican political views, hatred of communism, thoughts about the Vietnam War, all the while secretly in love with Sol. Who winds up with whom is fabulously revealed as the many revenge plots collide, somehow resulting in Angela regaining her stardom.

Ryan Bregmann’s madcap direction keeps the action moving along quickly, with scenic design by Pete Hickok creating a two-story, classic Beverly Hills mansion in 1967 with a lovely garden. Lighting design by Matthew Brian Denman and sound design by Rebecca Kessin bring us a very loud and realistic storm, as well as several front-facing character poses highlighted in spotlights when important plot-giveaway lines are spoken, with enough song selections from the mid-60s to keep all baby boomers singing right along from "These Boots are Made for Walking" to "Downtown."

So throw caution (and reality) to the wind and be prepared to laugh at DIE, MOMMIE, DIE! continuing Tuesday through Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 2 and 8pm, and Sunday at 1 and 6:30pm through May 20, 2018, performed with an intermission. Ticket Prices: $25 - $70 available online at, by calling Center Theatre Group Audience Services at 213.628.2772, in person at the Center Theatre Group Box Office at The Music Center, and at the Kirk Douglas Theatre two hours before curtain. Center Theatre Group's Kirk Douglas Theatre is located at 9820 Washington Blvd. in Culver City, CA 90232. Free three hour covered parking available at City Hall with validation (available in the Kirk Douglas Theatre lobby).


Shows Chat Boards Jobs Students Video Industry Insider Center Theatre Group Launches L.A. Writers' Workshop Festival, 6/23

--Broadway World  May 1, 2018


Center Theatre Group has announced the launch of the inaugural L.A. Writers' Workshop Festival: New Plays Forged In L.A., to celebrate some of the freshest and most exciting voices in Modern American Theatre coming out of Los Angeles and Center Theatre Group's long-standing L.A. Writers' Workshop. To be held annually at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, the festival will feature readings of three new plays by three L.A. Writers' Workshop participants from throughout the program's thirteen year history. The inaugural festival will be on June 23 from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. with readings of "A Kind of Weather" by Sylvan Oswald, "New Life" by Dan O'Brien and "How To Raise A Freeman" by Zakiyyah Alexander.

"The talent-level of writers who live and work in L.A. is unmatched," said Center Theatre Group Literary Manager and Artistic Engagement Strategist Joy Meads. "For more than a decade, Center Theatre Group has nurtured many of these exceptional voices through our Writers' Workshop - offering them the space and community to research and write new plays. Now, through our L.A. Writers' Workshop Festival, we can continue to support the excellence of the playwrights who call Los Angeles home by sharing their compelling new works with the public."

The festival begins at 11 a.m. with a breakfast reception and there will be a closing reception at 7:30 p.m.



‘Ameryka,’ at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, is a heavyweight meditation on freedom

--Daily Bulletin April 28, 2018

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One of the more fascinating events at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City is the annual Block Party — a series of productions bringing the work of other Los Angeles theater companies to this Center Theatre Group space.

The current temporary occupant is Critical Mass Performance Group, with its splendidly challenging “Ameryka,” written and directed by Nancy Keystone in collaboration with her performers.

In the baldest terms, “Ameryka” is a composite look at the definitions of freedom and democracy as seen in the U.S., and in the Poland of the freedom movement of the 1980s. The underlying structure looks at the weights upon those definitions which hold them, or have held them back, from full realization of those lofty goals, and the societal and governmental ways that the terms have been twisted.

Is this serious stuff? Yes. Will some of the issues put forth be controversial? Yes. Is it a fascinating piece of challenging theater? Also yes.

The structure of the piece intertwines time periods, national settings and cultural frameworks to weave a complex tapestry of images and juxtapositions that define the production’s main points. The members of the ensemble play many parts, large and small, though they are most identified by just a few.

All deal in one form or another with the dichotomy between having great words and ideas but sacrificing them to social or political pragmatism, versus living out an idealism that may prove sacrificially noble but difficult to maintain.

Central and recurring characters provide the touchstones for the larger landscape. Curt Bonnem’s Thomas Jefferson balances the words of his writings against his continued acceptance and utilization of slavery. Jeff Lorch balances this with the idealism of Polish hero Tadeusz Kosciuszko, who fought in the American Revolution and tried to bring its stated ideals (as opposed to actual results) back to his native land.

Russell Edge’s CIA Director William Casey confidently maneuvers behind the scenes to aid Valerie Spencer’s Anna Walentynowicz, one of the driving forces of Solidarity, the union that triggered the gradual downfall of Poland’s Communist government.

Ray Ford’s African-American jazz musician, Gene Jefferson, encounters the lack of perceived racism as he visits Poland, putting him at odds with African-American CIA agent Curtis Brown, played by Lorne Green.

Richard Gallegos’ Chief Little Turtle hovers over the supposed freedom of the U.S. as a reminder of a people sacrificed in the process, Liza Seneca’s Ewa becomes the voice of the Polish underground, and Nick Santoro supplies the questionable CIA agent Weller.

Still, simply defining main characters misses the essential point of this piece. What it confronts is best expressed in the constant use of bricks — simple bricks — to represent the weight carried with them on their journeys. The baggage of expectation, failure, compromise, even hypocrisy, “Ameryka” contends, defines how these diverse people define and experience, or don’t experience, freedom.

The play is meticulously researched, and the setting by director Keystone provides the spare but important background for Hsuan-Kuang Hsieh’s integral projections. Adam J. Frank’s lighting becomes a character, defining space and difference quickly as one moves from scene to scene.

The entire piece is as much choreographed as directed by Keystone, with results as powerful as they may be controversial.

“Ameryka” is at the Douglas for a short time, so catch it while you can. It is most certainly worth the time, but bring your thinking cap and be willing to ponder all the details for some days to come.






Applications Now Accepted For Block Party 2019 At the Kirk Douglas Theatre

--Broadway World Los Angeles  April 16, 2018



Applications are now being accepted for Center Theatre Group's third annual Block Party: Celebrating Los Angeles Theatre, which will highlight some of the remarkable work being done on other, more intimate stages throughout Los Angeles by producing three previously staged productions at the Kirk Douglas Theatre.

Intimate theatre companies from the greater Los Angeles area may submit one production for consideration. To be eligible, the production must have opened between January 1, 2017, and May 11, 2018. Three productions will be selected for presentation at the Kirk Douglas Theatre March 7 through April 28, 2019. The deadline to apply is Friday, May 11, 2018.

Interested theatre companies must complete an online application to be considered. The application, found at, features a few changes from previous years, so applicants should review the updated guidelines before submitting. Should any questions arise throughout the application process, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. There will also be a Block Party information session held at the Kirk Douglas Theatre on Tuesday, May 1 from 7 to 9 p.m. The session will be led by members of the Block Party team who will review each section of the application and answer questions. To RSVP for the information session, please visit

The three selected productions will each have a two-week run with 12 performances at the Douglas. All three theatre companies will be part of a collaboration with Center Theatre Group and will receive the full support of Center Theatre Group and its staff in order to fund, stage and market each production.




Taper and Kirk Douglas 2018-19 seasons: 'Sweat,' Tracy Letts, Dianne Wiest and a Lucas Hnath premiere

--Los Angeles Times  April 4, 2018


Center Theatre Group on Wednesday will announce the 2018-19 seasons for the Mark Taper Forum and Kirk Douglas Theatre, whose lineups will include work by Tracy Letts, Lynn Nottage, Luis Valdez and Lucas Hnath.

At the Kirk Douglas in Culver City, Center Theatre Group will present a world premiere by Hnath, "From the Words and Writings of Dana H." Hnath was nominated for a Tony last year for "A Doll's House: Part 2," which earned Laurie Metcalf Broadway's highest honor and which McNulty called "one of the year's best plays."

"Dana H." finds Hnath plumbing the biography of his mother, who feared for her life during five months being held captive by a mentally ill ex-convict. The play is based on the story as told by Hnath's mother, edited and staged by Hnath and directed by Les Waters.

Kirk Douglas Theatre 2018-19 Season

"School Girls; Or, the African Mean Girls Play," by Jocelyn Bioh, directed by Rebecca Taichman, previews starting Sept. 2, opening night Sept. 8

"Quack," world premiere by Eliza Clark, directed by Neel Keller, previews start Oct. 21, opening night Oct. 28

"Block Party: Celebrating Los Angeles Theater," three plays from L.A.'s 99-seat seat (or smaller) theaters, March 7 to April 28, 2019

"From the Words and Writings of Dana H.," world premiere by Lucas Hnath, directed by Les Waters, previews starting May 26, opening night June 2, 2019

More information on the season lineup:

Review: BLOODLETTING Opens Center Theatre Group's Block Party 2018 at the Kirk Douglas Theatre April 1, 2018


As it did last year with its first Block Party, Center Theatre Group continues to strengthen its relationships within the Los Angeles theatre community by creating additional avenues for the organization to work with local playwrights, actors, directors and designers to gain more exposure for their work in greater Los Angeles. This year, Center Theatre Group received 53 submissions for Block Party 2018 from intimate theatre companies in the greater Los Angeles area who each submitted one production that opened at their location between January 1, 2016, and May 30, 2017.

This year's first Block Party 2018 selection is the Playwrights' Arena production of BLOODLETTING, written by Boni B. Alvarez and directed by Playwrights' Arena Artistic Director Jon Lawrence Rivera. The play opened at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City on Saturday, March 31 and closes Sunday, April 8. Block Party 2018 will also remount Critical Mass Performance Group's production of "Ameryka" from April 19 through 29 and Celebration Theatre's production of "Die, Mommie, Die!" from May 10 through 20. The three visiting companies will receive the full support of Center Theatre Group and its staff in order to fund, stage and market each production.

BLOODLETTING takes place on a tropical island called Palawan in the Philippines. Farrah (Myra Cris Ocenar) and Bosley (playwright Boni B. Alvarez), two Filipino American siblings who recently lost their father, arrive on the island to scatter his ashes when a typhoon hits and they are forced to seek shelter at a tiny café. Jenry, the peculiar café owner (Alberto Isaac) and his granddaughter LeeLee (Anne Yatco) are both intrigued and shocked at how the siblings speak to each other with such venom and derision.

As the play unfolds, LeeLee and Jenry share tales about aswangs (witches) with the siblings in an attempt to keep them from tossing their father's ashes in a remote and sacred area. But all soon realize there is more going on than meets the eye, especially when Farrah admits and then demonstrates her own strange psychic abilities, including being able to move not only art work hanging on the café walls but to also create real bodily pain for her long-suffering and always over-eating brother.

Each of these four actors commands your attention with their stage presence, making their characters vividly real in both appearance and attitude. Yatco is especially effective in the opening scene as she takes center stage and proceeds to envelope herself into an over-the-top spiritually invigorating aswang experience. Scenic designer Christopher Scott Murillo creates the illusion of a tropical forest in which a large open-air café set piece slides into place when the action shifts indoors. Sound designer Howard Ho creates such realistic rainstorms, it's easy to imagine sheets of water really are falling on the stage!

Playwright Alvarez shares, "Aswangs are essentially Filipino witches who over the past few centuries have transformed from terrifying demonic monsters with enormous bloodshot eyes, fangs, and wings into contemporary human shapeshifters with an "evil" eye. Their special powers are activated at night, and with the aid of the Moon, they cause headaches and food poisoning. Aswangs also have the ability to fly by shapeshifting into birds, or turn into pigs that feast on humans, or turn other people into aswangs." All of these elements, as well as discussions about various types of human sexuality, come into play during BLOODLETTING, making it not recommended for children. The show's run time is 90 minutes without an intermission.

Tickets for all three Block Party 2018 productions are available by calling (213) 628-2772, online at, at the Center Theatre Group Box Office at the Ahmanson Theatre or at the Kirk Douglas Theatre Box Office two hours prior to performance. Tickets for each individual production range from $25 - $70 with a Block Party Party Pass available for $75, which includes a ticket to all three productions as well as a complimentary cocktail (or non-alcoholic beverage) at each performance. The Party Pass is available by phone or in-person through April 8. The Kirk Douglas Theatre is located at 9820 Washington Blvd. in Culver City, CA 90232. Free three hour covered parking at City Hall with validation (available in the Kirk Douglas Theatre lobby).


Weekend Pick: "Bloodletting"

--Los Angeles Times  March 30, 2018


There will be “Bloodletting.” Two Filipino American siblings go to the Philippines to scatter their father’s ashes in a remount of Playwrights’ Arena staging of Boni B. Alvarez’s drama. The play kicks off Center Theatre Group’s second annual Block Party showcase, a collaboration with smaller theater companies to spotlight notable homegrown productions. Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City. 8 p.m. Saturday, 6:30 p.m. Sunday; ends April 8. $25-$70; series passes available.

In 'Elliot, A Soldier's Fugue,' the silent pain of war echoes through three generations

--Los Angeles Times  February 5, 2016


February is Quiara Alegría Hudes month in Los Angeles. For the first time, the three plays in her heralded Elliot trilogy will be performed concurrently at separate theaters in the same metropolitan area. It’s taken a while for the series to reach our shores, but the L.A. theater community, led by Center Theatre Group, is giving Hudes the royal treatment she deserves.

 “Elliot, A Soldier’s Fugue,” the 2006 drama that began the series, opened Saturday at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. “Water by the Spoonful,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning middle drama, opens Sunday at the Mark Taper Forum. And “The Happiest Song Plays Last,” the final installment, opens later this month at the Los Angeles Theatre Center.

The plays share characters and thematic concerns, but each is a standalone experience with its own dramatic architecture, theatrical tempo and emotional palette. You don’t have to see them all, but why would you pass up an opportunity to become acquainted with one of the leading voices of this thrilling new generation of American playwrights?

Hudes, who studied music at Yale as an undergraduate before getting a master’s in playwriting at Brown, has developed unique musical structures for each play in the trilogy. Her body of work, which includes the book for the Tony-winning musical “In the Heights,” translates social justice concerns into dramatic scores.

“Elliot,” which looks at the experience of three generations of military veterans in a Puerto Rican family, centers on Elliot (Peter Mendoza), a North Philadelphia native and recent high school gradate who’s about to ship off to Iraq with the Marines in 2003. His story is interwoven with his father’s Vietnam War past and his grandfather’s Korean War history in a drama that organizes itself along the mingling lines of a fugue.

Grandpop (Rubén Garfias), who brought his flute to Korea, where he soothed his fellow soldiers with Bach during lulls in the fighting, enlightens us on the special qualities of a musical form he compares to an argument: “The voice is the melody, the single solitary melodic line. The statement. Another voice creeps up on the first one. Voice two responds to voice one. They tangle together. They argue, they become messy.”

How to sort the major and minor keys, “all at once on top of each other”? Grandpop, speaking as much for the playwriting as for himself, explains, “It’s about untying the knot.”

The knot here has to do with identity — ethnic, cultural, familial, professional and communal — each strand asserting its prerogative as it entwines with the others. Parts may vanish in the jumble, but loosen one section and another hidden facet returns.

In Shishir Kurup’s production, unfolding on a darkened set with a mirrored backdrop, voices take primacy in a play that poetically alternates between narration and dramatization. The voices are embodied in characters, but the wartime stories they tell bleed across boundaries.

Pop (Jason Manuel Olazábal), who served in Vietnam, where he met Ginny (Caro Zeller), a nurse with a sensuously healing touch, carries his father’s flute along with shared values, remembrances and scars, some of which he has pushed out of view. Grandpop, whose memory is fading with old age, recalls bits of his combat experience, which prefigures what happens to his son and grandson.

The traumatic tales echo one another. The assimilation to hostile conditions, the initiation into killing, the grievous bodily harm that inscribes the war permanently on minds and limbs constitute an uncanny refrain.

Ginny, who spends time in the garden she cultivates for the benefit of her neighborhood, has aligned herself with the forces of life. Her planting has increased since Elliot has left for Iraq. Each seed, she says, “is a contract with the future,” an expression of faith that “something better will happen tomorrow.”

Hudes lays out the trilogy’s central thematic material in “Elliot,” but many of the threads will be more fully developed in the later plays. Issues of class are touched on — Elliot, for instance, believes that the only alternative to the military is a job making sandwiches at Subway — but will be dealt with more explicitly in “Water by the Spoonful.”

\What distinguishes “Elliot, A Soldier’s Fugue” is the potent way it grapples with the physical pain of wartime injuries. The suffering that Elliot experiences replicates what Pop undergoes, a history that Elliot only takes in after Ginny shares with him letters that Pop wrote to his father from Vietnam. These missives were moldering in the basement, packed away like so much of the past that Pop would rather put behind him.

In capturing Elliot’s youthful innocence and vigor, Mendoza raises the emotional stakes for the audience as the young Marine descends into hell. Elliot’s inevitable brush with death raises questions about the cycle of suffering the men in his family have all undergone and kept under wraps. The physical pain, while undeniably real, becomes a metaphor for later psychological misery.

Olazábal’s Pop communicates through his detachment a sense of betrayal. War is nothing like the movies or the patriotic tales that circulate to buck up morale — a lesson that his son can only learn for himself. Guilt and resentment press on him from both generational sides.

Grandpop can’t recall much about his travails in Korea beyond the music he played. Garfias’ Grandpop, lighting up when talking about the flute, conveys the sense that it was Bach that rerouted his mind from despair.

Zeller’s Ginny is most memorable in her hospital flashbacks with Pop in which she flirts with him to restore him as a man. More than her lyrical musings about gardens, it is her boundless love that transforms the broken men around her.

Sibyl Wickersheimer’s set and Geoff Korf’s lighting might be colder than necessary. The ambience is modern but not particularly inviting. These choices are, however, thematically appropriately for a play that travels to places that can neither be vividly remembered nor once and for all forgotten. The scenes exist in forbidding shadows.

By the end, Kurup’s staging locates the painful yet persevering lyricism of “Elliot, A Soldier’s Fugue.” It’s an ideal preparation for “Water by the Spoonful,” a play that will explore the dissonance in Elliot’s life from a wider communal perspective. Whatever you do, don’t miss the middle masterpiece.

‘Elliot, A Soldier’s Fugue’

Where: Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City

When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sundays; ends Feb. 25 (call for exceptions)

Tickets: $25-$70 (subject to change)

Info: (213) 628-2772 or

Running time: 1 hour, 15 minutes (no intermission)



'Spamilton': Musical spoof lands its punches softly, and with a smile

--Los Angeles Times  November 13, 2017


If you can't beat 'em, parody 'em.

Gerard Alessandrini, the man behind the popular “Forbidden Broadway” series, has made his theatrical career spoofing his musical theater betters. He’s turned theatrical lampooning into an art form, sending up the excesses of bloated shows and caricaturing the mannerism of divas.

Alessandrini has had much to mock over the span of 25 “Forbidden Broadways,” from the fervid pop operas of Andrew Lloyd Webber to the empty-headed jukebox musicals that, until recently, had a commercial stranglehold on the American musical theater.

The success of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton” has inaugurated a new and more promising era. The show, too much a game-changer to be crowded into a skewering revue, is the target of Alessandrini’s “Spamilton,” which opened last weekend at the Kirk Douglas Theatre.

The show (created, written and directed by Alessandrini) tweaks the familiar logo of “Hamilton” to leave no doubt about the teasing intentions. A pianist (music director James Lent) pounds away discreetly at the keys on a mostly bare stage. The ensemble is surprisingly populous, but the production still has the feeling of a small-scale cabaret.

“Spamilton” substitutes the story of Miranda, a Broadway revolutionary, for the story of Alexander Hamilton, the original American revolutionary. The rhymes of “Alexander Hamilton,” the opening number from “Hamilton,” are rejiggered to introduce Broadway’s reigning king, whose Tony-winning show has become one of the hottest tickets in the land.

How does a whipper snapper
Student of rap
And a Latin
Trapped in the middle of a
Manhattan flat
With Broadway accolades
While other writers kiss
The corporate dollar
Grow up to be a hip-hop op’ra

These words are sung by Wilkie Ferguson III, who plays Leslie Odom Jr., the “Hamilton” cast member who won a Tony for playing Aaron Burr. Hamilton’s rival is still bitterly competitive, though in “Spamilton” the two characters argue about artistic integrity, not politics.

Everyone knows that Lin-Manuel (William Cooper Howell) is destined to “build a better Broadway,” but it’s not going to be an easy road. Audiences like to stick to the familiar, and the commercial temptations and traps have grown only more extreme.

But this hot young talent means business. In “His Shot,” Lin-Manuel roars, “I am not gonna let Broadway rot” — and both the swagger and nobility of his ambition come through.

The structure of the show seems jury-rigged. The story readily gives way to gag numbers. Impersonations of Liza Minnelli and Barbra Streisand are de rigueur. The spirit of “Spamilton” is mostly adulatory, but Alessandrini, a shrewd observer of musicals, takes a few gentle shots at Miranda.

“Be terser in your verse, sir/You’re no Johnny Mercer,” critiques Odom in a rhyme that demonstrates Alessandrini’s own rap prowess. After “Hamilton” becomes a blockbuster, Lin-Manuel comes on and self-deprecatingly introduces himself: “I’m slightly obnoxious/Too broad, too pained/My voice is strained/and thin/I’m Lin-Manuel!”

The “Spamilton” cast infuses the show with nonstop energy. Zakiya Young summons Renée Elise Goldsberry as effectively as she conjures Audra McDonald and J-Lo. John Devereaux simulates the cool, lanky, big-haired eccentricity of Daveed Diggs.

Glenn Bassett, who plays crazy King George, camps it up in “Straight Is Back,” a “Penny Lane”-like ditty (converted, if you will, from “You’ll Be Back”) bemoaning the way “Hamilton” has made Broadway conspicuously less gay.

Some of the raillery, while funny, feels like overkill. The mash-up of shows, combinations that are like Frankenstein’s monster (“The Lion King and I”), might be more amusing in a nightclub serving drinks.

Alessandrini is on steadier ground when bringing in Stephen Sondheim. “Spamilton” pokes fun at Miranda’s hero worship. (Is there a note of Eve Harrington in Lin-Manuel’s earnest praise?) “Sweeney Todd” is invoked in a running gag in which a beggar woman cacophonously pleads not for alms but for “Hamilton” tickets.

Yet Alessandrini detects more lyrical kinship between these composers than might be obvious to a civilian theatergoer. Sondheim’s deft wordplay seems like a precursor to Miranda’s rap style by the end of a section in which Renée repeatedly sings, “And another hundred syllables/Came out of his brain.”

“Spamilton” infuses original insights into a show that without these kernels might seem tiresomely broad. The musical unfolds as a sort of dream of President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, who made “Hamilton” the “Camelot” of their administration. The production can get surreally silly at points, but Alessandrini treats Miranda’s masterpiece with the rambunctious love this watershed musical deserves.


Where: Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City

When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sundays (call for exceptions); ends Jan. 7

Price: $55-$99 (subject to change)

Info: (213) 628-2772 or

Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes (no intermission)