Whoever thought that an improvised hip-hop love letter to Hamilton needed to exist in the first place – thank you. Shamilton is exactly that, and the hour passes by so quickly that you’ll be buying another ticket before you know it.
No show is the same as another, the comedy supergroup Baby Wants Candy improvises an entire musical based on a historical figure or celebrity of the audience’s choosing. In the past, they’ve seen Prince Harry, Kim Kardashian and even Paul Hollywood. Expect the unexpected, off-the-cuff choreography, powerhouse vocals, and actual well-developed character arcs.
On the night I attended, the audience chose David Schwimmer (Friends, Madagascar). Little to the audience and casts knowledge, that our collective choice of David Schwimmer had strong links to Edinburgh Fringe. Schwimmer recently appeared in a BBC Scotland documentary called ‘Fringe, Fame, and Me’, where he recalled taking a production of Alice in Wonderland he directed whilst at Northwestern University to the Fringe during his twenties, where it became “a life-changing experience and it also proved [...] that we could do this” – life imitates art, and I’d argue that the same will happen to the talent that is Baby Wants Candy.
As is with most improv, a chaotic plot equals big laughs – and the David Schwimmer plot felt a lot like a runaway train. It started anarchically and remained so. Enter David Schwimmer’s parents from Yorkshire, two gyrating and absent guardians who like ducks and gyrating (you read that correctly, that’s the magic of improv).
Now, take a deep breath – this is the rest of the plot of Shamilton after David Schwimmer’s life (kind of). When Schwimmer moves to America, he meets his frenemy the Aaron Burr-inspired Will Smith – a character both aspirational, but questionable. One of the peaks of the show is a song from Schwimmer’s agent, agent assistant and publicist assistant who has a meeting thinking they should get him into the Hollywood Sex Club (HSC) to raise his profile – think ‘The Room Where It Happens’ but cultish and on steroids. The conflict of the show was finding out the cast of Friends aren’t Schwimmer’s friends and the fact he has to sacrifice himself to make it to the big leagues. When he does make it big, he is making big bucks voicing a character in Madagascar with his pal Chris Rock (pre-Oscar punch gate). Schwimmer gets his first Oscar nomination for the made-up ‘Best Voice Actor for an Animated Short’ but his only rival in the category is, Will Smith. When Schwimmer wins he gets punched for making some Chris Rock-inspired comments, however, his friends (the cast of Friends plus Chris Rock) come to save the day. Then they all go back to Yorkshire to show his parents his Oscar, but most importantly to show he has made friends.
The ensemble gel together so well, picking up from where the other left off and passing each other curveballs in the plot with ease. The two instrumentalists, composed of drums and keys, set the tone perfectly for each scene. This cast and crew are a well-oiled machine who know what they're doing, and they're also having a bunch of fun too with their witty lines, and rhyming verses. Shamilton is a sharp, fast-paced hour that'll absolutely fly by but also have you humming fully-formed songs by the end of it.
The cast of Shamilton had one shot to get it right, and they created pure magic on that stage. From Willow Smith singing ‘Caught a vibe’ as an adlib into a song, to Chris Rock slotting in ever-so perfectly into this reversed timeline plot – if you want to laugh easy tonight at the Fringe, Shamilton is your show. Improv is difficult to get 100% correct, and whilst there were moments the cast might've not been on the exact same page with their character choices they just went with the flow of things like true improv experts.
For David Schwimmer's musical opening and closing night, it was an honour to witness the improv excellence on stage – it definitely evokes the want to return for another show in some Shamilton! Here We Go Again turn of events (please don't do Pierce Brosnan though).
For tickets and more information, visit edringe.com