Hamilton parody is pure, absurd fun | Theater | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper
click to enlarge Spamilton - MATT POLK
Matt Polk

Lin-Manuel Miranda wants a revolution, but not the kind that builds democracy in America. The bright-eyed, idealistic Miranda of Spamilton is fighting on the battlefield of Broadway. 

Spamilton: An American Parody lampoons Miranda’s smash hit Hamilton with a winking reverence. Author Gerard Alessandrini’s imagination is on full display in the satire, producing wild musical mashups (the “Lion King and I” a personal favorite), crazy plot points, and surprisingly frequent use of hand puppets. 

The musical opens on Michelle and Barack Obama’s bedroom in 2016. Preparing for bed, Barack dusts off the Hamilton soundtrack. They cuddle up to Alexander Hamilton’s trademark beats, and Aaron Burr (Tru Verret-Fleming), pops out to deliver the opening verses.

At first, I thought the spoof was going to mirror the Hamilton score note-for-note, but it quickly goes off the rails. After the opening number — which introduces Miranda (T.J. Newton) and his goal not to let “Broadway rot” — the show becomes an outrageous hodgepodge of musical satire.

The plot is loose, to say the least. The musical takes its inspiration's lyrics and loses itself in silly, whimsical tangents (instead of “throwing away his shot,” Miranda is not “throwing away this pot”). These tangents give way to some of the best moments: Erin Ramirez, who plays all the leading ladies, appearing as Liza Minnelli to sing a jazzy tune titled “Down with Rap;" the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme reimagined as a tribute to Daveed Diggs (who played Lafayette in Hamilton's original cast); or a pianist serenading the audience with the sad news that “straight is back, it's a cinch, Hedwig put away his angry inch." 

Luckily the absurdity of the production doesn't cloud the talents of this great cast. Justin Lonesome (Ben Franklin, George Washington, others), dressed as Annie, struck sky-high notes in a clear falsetto, and Ramirez executed flawless, comedic impressions of all the Broadway divas. 

(Note: if you love Stephen Sondheim, Andrew Lloyd Webber, or Disney, this is not the show for you. Spamilton spends most of the script ragging on the greats, resulting in a water-gun assassination of Miranda from the coalition of big Broadway characters.)

Nevertheless, things end up amicable in full corny musical fashion, with the cast imploring the audience to “raise a glass to Broadway.”

Alessandrini’s writing taunts Hamilton, but there’s still obvious respect for the musical. It’s a ridiculous send-up created from a place of admiration, and I don’t think I stopped laughing during the entire hour. It was pure, absurd fun — worth the ticket price. Even if you've never seen Hamilton, the jokes still land. 

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