Spamilton – Triad Theater (New York, NY), 8.17.16

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They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so in that regard Hamilton has finally made it. Sure they may have won all the Tony awards and have had sold-out performances for over a year, but now that they have their own parody musical I’m sure Lin-Manuel Miranda can sleep better at night – assuming that guy even sleeps. I’m not 100% convinced that the rules of normal human behavior apply to him.

A few weeks ago when I made my pilgrimage to visit the holy land The Museum of Ice Cream, I decided to make a (really) long day of it and catch that evening’s performance of Spamilton. This is the next level of the Hamilton obsession – now that I’ve seen the musical (with the original Broadway cast), bought the soundtrack, meticulously followed casting news and have poured over all the memes and other fan-created content that the Internet has to offer, it was only logical that I would go to see a show that pokes fun at Hamilton in particular and Broadway musicals generally. I wasn’t particular familiar with the “Forbidden Broadway” group that was putting on the musical, but I was willing to take a chance on it to say that I’ve truly had the full Hamilton experience; besides, if it was good enough to entertain this guy, it was probably good enough for me:

The Triad Theater is a long way from the Richard Rodgers theater, not only in address (72nd street vs. 46th Street, respectively), but also in size. The Triad was so small that we actually walked past it without even noticing it. Remember that episode of The Big Bang Theory when Penny did a show in a theater over a bowling alley? This was a similar situation, but this time the theater was over a Turkish grill. It was also pretty cozy, as the squeezed in a lot of chairs and tables into the space. We were sitting in the front row and we were practically on the stage – in fact, as I was sitting by the stairs to get on and off the stage, my shoulder was occasionally employed to assist actors in their assent. I didn’t necessarily sign up for that and someone did hit me in the eye with a scarf, but it happened infrequently enough that I could surrender my usual rigid personal space parameters for the evening. I was even briefly a part of the show as the people in the cast referenced me during a number, but thankfully there was minimal audience participation (something else that I cannot abide by).

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The show was a lot of fun and the cast was uniformly great. Most of the cast is in Hamilton-period appropriate costumes, but they aren’t so much playing the characters in Hamilton as the actors from the musical (though the lines do blur a little). The actors of Spamilton all did an admirable job of sounding a lot like Lin-Manuel Miranda, Daveed Diggs, Leslie Odom, Jr and Renee Elise Goldsberry. The main thrust of the parody is “Lin-Manuel’s” desire to save Broadway from itself and the current wave of mediocrity. Much like his role as Aaron Burr, “Leslie Odom, Jr.” is something of a foil, as he encourages “Lin-Manuel” to not rock the boat and just put out a more traditional Broadway show. A lot of the songs are variations on songs from Hamilton, but not all of them; Spamilton also has time to parody Sondheim, Disney musicals, and special appearances by Broadway divas like “Barbra Streisand,” “Liza Minnelli,” and “Carol Channing.” There were tons of fun winks for Hamilton fans – including some jokes about Miranda’s earnestness and thin voice – as well as fans of Broadway in general. It was all very funny and smart, as well as a little silly. My only disappointment was that the actor playing “Daveed Diggs” hadn’t actually grown out Diggs’ trademark hair, but was instead wearing a wig. There were a lot of great moments, but I especially enjoyed Eliza and Peggy Schuyler being depicted with hand puppets and the actors from Broadway lamenting that they “want to be in the movie when it happens” (sung to “The Room Where It Happens”), but will be replaced by more famous people. In typical Burr fashion, this seemed to upset “Leslie Odom, Jr.” the most, who threw a temper tantrum when he was told that he’d probably be replaced by Neil Patrick Harris.

Some other thoughts:

  • If you are really on a budget, Spamilton keeps up the Broadway tradition of offering tickets by lottery the day of the show. If you are selected, you can win $0.10 seats in the balcony.
  • At the end of the show, fake money is thrown into the audience. I kept a fake $10 bill that I caught, but then almost accidentally tried to use it to buy coffee when it was still in my purse a few days later. But what’s a little light counterfeiting between friends?
  • There is no assigned seating for the show, so the earlier you get there, the more likely that you’ll be closer to the stage (depending on the size of your party).

Given that I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to get out of Spamilton, I have to say that we had a really good time and it definitely exceeded my expectations. The performers were all very talented and very funny and had an impressive knack of mimicking whoever it was that they were depicting. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for future “Forbidden Broadway” productions. The tickets were reasonable (plus a mandatory two drink minimum) and though the quarters were cozy, the show was well worth the close confines. Due to the show’s popularity they have extended the run of Spamilton multiple times – currently shows run through the end of October. If you love Hamilton specifically, or just Broadway in general, it’s definitely something to check out.

Tickets for Spamilton can be purchased here.

I’ve started a trend – after my review was posted, the show was also reviewed  by The New York Times and The Huffington Post.

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