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How to Make a 'Hamilton' Parody

Date: Oct 17, 2016

Forbidden Broadway's creator returns with Spamilton


After seeing Hamilton when it was at The Public Theater and then following its subsequent command of the cultural zeitgeist, Gerard Alessandrini knew he had to get to work.

But the godfather of Forbidden Broadway, the playful series of theatrical parodies which began in 1982, also knew that his new show would be different.

"I was getting a little discouraged about the Broadway shows that weren't big enough to be spoofable," he says. "That is, the general public didn't know them well enough."

Hamilton was the cure for his blues. For well over a year, both the musical itself and Lin-Manuel Miranda, its creator and star, have been impossible to ignore. As Alessandrini says, "There was so much there to spoof."

So much so that Alessandrini felt he could create an entire parody about Hamilton and not just make it another slot in the next edition of Forbidden Broadway. (The last one was 2014's Forbidden Broadway Comes Out Swinging.).

Thus, he has created Spamilton, which is now playing at the Triad.

But how do you marry the loose and spiky structure of Forbidden Broadway, which parodies dozens of shows in a rapid parade of songs, with a focus on a single blockbuster? "I wanted to make Spamilton loosely structured, so that was a bit of a challenge," Alessandrini says. "I was still trying to give it a revue feel so we could touch on many subjects. I wanted to have my cake and eat it too."


The five cast members often go behind the set for quick changes, but "it all keeps flowing, which is like Hamilton," he adds. The choreography by Gerry McIntyre echoes the kinetic moves of Andy Blankenbuehler's work on the original, and Fred Barton, the show’s pianist and musical director, keeps the energy high.

Unlike in Forbidden Broadway, many of the actors – including Dan Rosales, who plays Miranda – appear as just one character. "It's not the same idea of Forbidden Broadway, like, 'How many comic characters can one actor play?'" says Alessandrini.

He continues, "The script is about twice the length of a typical Forbidden Broadway show – even though the whole show plays a little bit shorter – because of the wordage. The rap was difficult for me because I'm not used to that, and it took me a while to get my head around the mis-rhymes. It took me two or three times longer to write than a new Forbidden Broadway."

However, Alessandrini knew how to open and close his production. "No matter what I'm doing, even Forbidden Broadway or anything, I always do the ending first and maybe the opening number," he says. "In this case I knew that it had to be the same opening number as Hamilton."

(Well, almost. The show opens with President and Michelle Obama going to bed and putting on the cast recording. And the ending spoofs Barbra Streisand giving Miranda the Tony while singing "I wanna be in the film when it happens.")

Yet for all this, Spamilton is not just about Hamilton

"It's where it sits in the Broadway catalogue, and what else was around and how it made other shows pale by comparison," Alessandrini says. "So I thought, 'Oh, I better mix some other Broadway shows into it a bit.'"

A few old favorites arrive after Rosales takes the now-familiar Hamilton lyric, "I am not throwing away my shot" and turns it into, "I am not gonna let Broadway rot."

Alessandrini says, "I wanted to have the 'old' Broadway represented to compare it to the 'new ' Broadway, so I wanted to get some of the old divas in." To that end, Patti, Liza, and Bernadette make cameos in the show. "I'm sort of having them appear as lost ghosts, like, 'What are they going to do now?'"

It's unclear what those legends might think about their appearance in Spamilton, but Miranda himself was in the audience early in the run. After the show, he went backstage, congratulated the performers, and gave Alessandrini and the cast prime tickets to Hamilton.


Follow Frank Rizzo at @ShowRiz. Follow TDF at @TDFNYC.

Photos by Carol Rosegg. Top photo: Dan Rosales (center) and the cast of 'Spamilton'.

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