Review by Tatum Stafford
Renowned improv troupe Baby Wants Candy have struck gold with Shamilton! The Improvised Hip Hop Musical at Edinburgh Fringe this year – just ask the sold out crowd on their second night!
The premise of the show is inspired by Lin Manuel Miranda’s seminal musical Hamilton, but with an improv twist. The troupe of six performers asked the audience for a notable figure that they’d tell the life story of, in a musical format, like Lin did with Alexander Hamilton.
The subject for the show I attended was Kanye West, with Taylor Swift, Jay Z, Beyoncé, Kim Kardashian, and Pete Davidson thrown in, naturally. With a skilled live two-person band, the show opened with the familiar tune of Hamilton’s opening number, and the improvised Kanye West musical unfolded.
The performers were lightning quick, and armed with plenty of Kanye/Taylor/Kim references – as a self-confessed Swiftie I was impressed with some of the deep cuts they seamlessly threw into lyrics and dialogue – and all showcased phenomenal vocal skill and comedic chops. It was almost impossible to catch the cast giving each other improv ‘offers’ because they were so fast.
Fans of Hamilton won’t leave disappointed, as there are plenty of nods to the show throughout this hour, including the familiar opening chords, a duel, and in this Shamilton viewing, an interlude of “Helpless” as Kanye courted Kim, and hints of “Your Obedient Servant” as Kanye feuded with Pete.
The troupe are clearly very well connected and a strong team. This also extends to the intimate band on stage for the show, who were often challenged (not subtly) by the cast to come up with “never-heard-before, amazing, showstopping songs”, which they always managed to do. It was a treat to watch the band crack up at the cast in front of them, too. It’s clear everyone onstage was having a great time, and that they each have a lot of respect for one another’s skill and strengths.
That fun extended to the audience too; it was one of the rowdiest audiences I’ve been in so far. And very well deserved for these hard-working performers who were pulling songs, plot lines and characters out of thin air at rapid pace.
This show was an absolute riot, and a must-see for musical theatre fans, or improv tragics. Come armed with a notable figure or two – I know I’ll be keeping an eye on their socials to see what kind of backstory musicals they’ll pump out during their time at the Fringe.