By Toby Zinman
For the Inquirer
Spamilton is a joyous parody, in love with what it mocks, and it is a very funny show. The musical theater phenomenon, Hamilton, and its geniused creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, is the object of its witty ridicule—not the musical itself, but the phenomenon, the brand "Hamilton" that has taken on a life of its own: the hopeless quest for tickets, the speculation about the film version, and most of all, the Revolution—not the political one in the 18th century, but the one in show business. So much for Ben Brantley's declaring The Book of Mormon "the best musical of the century."
Spamilton's rap refrain is, "I will not let Broadway rot," echoing "I will not throw away my shot." The legacy is from Camelot (famously the Kennedys' favorite) to Spamalot to Spamilton ("got change for a $10?") Miranda/Hamilton sings, "I had a dream, Broadway…" and the result is "The Impossible Show."
This show's opening song is not a biography Alexander Hamilton, the orphan immigrant who helped to create America, but a biography of Miranda; Burr, "the damned fool" advises Miranda to lower expectations and revive South Pacific—and the allusions to about a zillion musicals fly by thick and fast. The Lion King sings "Shall we roar" and Stephen Sondheim appears as Benjamin Franklin, notably omitted from Hamilton, whose lyrics are revered as ur rap. These are the rhymes that try men's souls, as "another hundred syllables came out of his brain."
Various stars appear, begging for tickets, begging to make an album with Miranda: Audra Macdonald ("a has-been:you haven't won a Tony in months") and Beyonce ("I haven't done platinum in days") with Liza and Bernadette and Barbra piling on, and Daveed Diggs as the Prince of Big Hair.
The ensemble is terrific: Nicholas Edwards, Cameron Amandus, Larry Owens, Chris Anthony Giles, Christine Pedi, and the astonishing Nora Schell (I was lucky to catch her last performance with the show—she's fresh out of college and will surely go on to actual Broadway). Fred Barton is heroically at the piano.
Written and directed by Gerard Alessandrini—the creator of "Forbidden Broadway" in all twenty-five editions. Those shows are usually scathing in their humor, unlike this one, although an affectionate tribute to the world of musical theater is always the point: "Raise a glass to Broadway/And that's the story of tonight." If you're a Hamilton fan—or just a musical theater fan—don't miss this show in this funky little cabaret theater upstairs from a restaurant, way off Broadway.