Creator: Gerard Alessandrini. At: Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted St. Tickets: 312-988-9000 or Spamilton.com; $59-$99. Runs through: May 28
10 Out of 12
Playwright: Anne Washburn. At: Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave. Tickets: 773-975-8150 or TheaterWit.org; $24-$36. Runs through: April 23
Two recent acclaimed off-Broadway shows making strong Chicago debuts are allowing audiences to feel like the ultimate theater insiders. The Royal George Theatre hosts the 2016 musical spoof Spamilton by Forbidden Broadway creator Gerard Alessandrini, while the 2015 comic drama 10 Out of 12, by Mr. Burns playwright Anne Washburn, is at Theater Wit.
With Spamilton, Alessandrini shows his creative and marketing savvy at hitching what is essentially another edition of Forbidden Broadway to the pop cultural phenomenon that is Hamilton. Alessandrini also shows once again why he is the master at skewering all things Broadway by poking fun at all the hype, hip-hop wordiness and surrounding Broadway jealousy about Lin-Manuel Miranda's money-spinning and history-inspired hit.
Alessandrini himself adroitly directs, and he has assembled a top-notch Chicago company to constantly shapeshift vocally under music director Adam LaSalle to make Spamilton a non-stop laughathon. It would be of no surprise if the company of Yando Lopez, Donterrio Johnson, Eric Andrew Lewis, David Robbins and Michelle Lauto were poached to appear in future companies of Hamilton.
As an added bonus, Forbidden Broadway guest diva Christine Pedi perfectly ( and ruthlessly ) also embodies an array of Broadway leading ladies trying to score Hamilton tickets through the course of the show. I won't say which divas Pedi becomes because that would ruin the delightful surprises.
True, some of the Broadway insider references in Spamilton might go over the heads of general audiences ( like jokes tied to now-closed musicals like American Psycho or Shuffle Along ). But there's so much hilarity and targeted humor throughout Spamilton that it won't just be theater aficionados who will be splitting their sides from constant laughter.
As for 10 Out of 12 ( a theater term for a professional 12-hour technical rehearsal with a two-hour break ), it's much more an exercise by Washburn revealing how the theater sausage is made. In illuminating moments throughout one of these rehearsals, audiences get to see the die-hard craft of the lighting, sound and costume designers as they hash out everything cue by cue.
What's more, the audience gets to listen in to the headset chatter thanks to individual earphones at each seat. Some might find all this gimmicky, but the eavesdropping gives an extra dimension to 10 Out of 12 that is extra insightful.
Director Jeremy Wechsler with his great acting company and expert design team rightfully get across all the tedium and unexpected dramatic flare-ups that might transpire during such a necessary rehearsal ( it's also great that Washburn has customized her script to Chicago ). This production may be too inwardly meta for many audiences' tastes, but it does celebrate all the hard work and dedication that goes into creating live theater.