Spamilton

I haven’t seen Hamilton, and at this rate I’ll probably have to wait for another 5 years or so, but I’ve heard the soundtrack all the way through multiple times, and I’m a big enough fan to appreciate a parody, like Spamilton.

Spamilton seems to float around, but at the moment it’s playing at the (confusingly stationary but otherwise fitting) Puerto Rican Traveling Theater, which is right by our house. The theater is like Broadway in miniature, two tiers but only ten seats across, with brick walls that look like this might have once been an alleyway.

At the end of an awful week, on a rainy evening, Spamilton was just the thing to lighten the mood. Ostensibly, it’s a story of the rise to fame of Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton’s creator, set to the tune of Hamilton. That ends up being about 30% of the show; the remainder samples and skewers every Broadway hit (and a few flops) since Rogers and Hammerstein, with a breadth of commentary to match.

The show’s writing is clever, sometimes too clever for me to understand (like the deep references to second-tier Sondheim shows). The funny thing about this show, though, is that the jokes are not the best part; it’s the cast, whose impressions of the Hamilton songs, even with silly lyrics, are good enough for understudy roles at the very least. They’re so good that their parodies of sad songs will make you cry anyway. (Nicole Ortiz, who plays all three Schuyler sisters, is particularly amazing.)

A theme throughout the production is Broadway’s inescapable arc of popularity: a meteoric rise, and then a long slow slide from today’s hot ticket into yesterday’s fad. Much fun is poked at neverending “tourist trap” productions like Phantom and Wicked, but Spamilton itself might be a bellwether, airborne only while Hamilton is stratospheric.

At our Friday evening show, the small theater was much less than half full, not a positive sign. If Spamilton is running out of steam, it might be a sign that Hamilton is falling back to earth.

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