As far as Boston theater goes, Hamilton is out and Spamilton is in. Of course, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical juggernaut about the founding fathers is (sadly) far from leaving the public consciousness anytime soon but, a few months after its months-long residency came and went, a new show from the creator of the Forbidden Broadway series has set up camp in Boston. Creator/writer/director Gerard Alessandrini’s new show takes aim at the late-2010s phenomenon and its singular creator, though its success as a barbed look at contemporary theater is muddled, to say the least.
Though it features many of the stars that orbit the Hamilton universe—the Obamas, Barbra Streisand, who presented the show its Best Musical award, etc.—it doesn’t so much skewer them, or the show, as much as just sings about them. Largely following the structure of its source material, it details its creation with too much affection to count as stinging satire, substituting the original lyrics for kind-hearted parodies.
The show is at its wittiest when at its cattiest, though those moments are sadly few and far between, and almost exclusively given to Ani Djirdjirian, the sole woman in the ensemble. She gets the pleasure (and exercise) of playing everyone from Liza Minnelli to Hamilton stars Renée Elise Goldsberry, Phillipa Soo, and “the other one” (Jasmine Cephas Jones). Djirdjirian nails every impression, belt, and breathless punchline with admirable effort. The rest of the cast does a fine job, though they become somewhat anonymous through their endless role-switching.
Miranda being such an easily caricatured person—as I write, I am sweating in restraint of taking the opportunity to make this entire review a merciless roast of the man—it’s a surprising disappointment that Spamilton ignores most of what makes him such a polarizing figure, instead creating a blank sketch of a character who could be swapped out for any other overachieving artist.
Of course, there’s the whole issue of good sportsmanship and, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it.” But that doesn’t really hold with parody. Great satire follows more along the lines of, “If you don’t have anything witty to say, why bother?” Then again, a show ripping away at one of the biggest money makers in Broadway history isn’t exactly good business.
Truth be told, the whole thing reeks of the type of ’80s stand-up humor you see modern comics use as examples of dated comedy. The insinuation that Miranda must have gotten high to come up with the idea for Hamilton—essentially a middle school teacher’s “hip” lesson plan about the writing of the Federalist Papers—is dated enough to warrant an introduction by Nancy Reagan.
For fans of the show, of which there are many, Spamilton will provide a feel-good romp through their favorite musical’s creation. Still, it would benefit from packing some more punch in its puns; I fully believe fans would be able to take it.
SPAMILTON: AN AMERICAN PARODY. THROUGH 4.7 AT CALDERWOOD PAVILION AT THE BCA. 527 TREMONT ST., BOSTON. HUNTINGTONTHEATRE.ORG