Can something truly be called a cultural phenomenon in this day and age if it hasn’t been spoofed?
Whether or not it can, there is little doubt that “Hamilton” has seeped into the culture in ways few Broadway shows have done in decades.
So, it isn’t surprising that Gerard Alessandrini, the master of Great White Way satire and the founder of “Forbidden Broadway,” has applied his talents to the hip-hop historical musical. His spoof, “Spamilton: An American Parody,” is touring the country and The Phoenix Theatre Company is hosting it now through Aug. 11.
“Everyone who knows ‘Hamilton’ and loves ‘Hamilton’ loves this show — they hear the music, they know all the lyrics, and when they hear how we twist and play with it, it’s priceless,” said Datus Puryear, the actor who plays actor Leslie Odom Jr. and historical politican/lawyer Aaron Burr in the touring production.
“Everyone knows the show so well and they’re ready to have a good time. We do the twist and they’re always right there with us.”
The twists include new words to familiar songs, creative casting, puppets, and the skewering of other shows and Broadway personalities. In addition to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit musical, “Spamilton” also parodies “Gypsy,” “Chicago,” “The King and I,” “Assassins,” “Camelot,” “The Book of Mormon” and “Sweeney Todd.”
The show debuted in New York in July 2016 and continued a successful run that extended to Chicago, London and a national tour.
Puryear said he and many of his fellow cast members have auditioned many times for “Hamilton” (and he has been called back many times as well) and when they auditioned for “Spamilton,” they knew most the music by heart.
It made it easier to jump into “Spamilton,” especially because they had only two weeks to rehearse before going live.
“If I didn’t know anything about Hamilton, it would have been hard. Knowing it made that learning curve a lot easier,” Puryear said.
Puryear got a late introduction to musical theater. While he was involved in the arts and music throughout school, he’d never done theater until he was encouraged to audition for “Beauty and the Beast” during his senior year of high school. He was cast as the Beast.
“It was a whole other door that opened for me,” he said. “It made me regret not doing theater my previous four years. When I went to college for music, I continued to do shows. It was something new I had discovered.”
After college, he did a few commercials, had his first TV show on CBS, and then he booked “Spamilton.”
It’s a show he said is absolutely for everyone—whether they have seen “Hamilton” or not.
“When I first booked the role, I was thinking that this was just going to be for a niche audience,” Puryear said. “A lot of people have seen ‘Hamilton,’ but not everyone. But no, you definitely don’t need to have seen ‘Hamilton’ to grasp what is going on. We spoof so many other shows and the content in and of itself is so funny.”
In fact, he said, seeing “Spamilton” can prep you for seeing the real thing.
“Spamilton’s” creator Alessandrini is best known for “Forbidden Broadway,” a long-running off-Broadway revue that parodies musical theater.
It opened in 1982 and was continually rewritten to include new material and spoof new musicals. It ran cabaret style and typically had four actors playing multiple roles. Over the decades, they released multiple CDs and toured the world. At times they stretched out to do such things as “Forbidden Hollywood.”
Some of the songs in “Spamilton” include such titles as “Lin-Manuel as Hamilton,” “Aaron Burr, Sir, Nervous-er,” “Look Around (The Schuyler Puppets)” several reprises of “Ticket Beggar Woman,” (a take-off on the beggar woman from Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd” begging for tickets instead of alms), “Daveed Diggs — The Fresh Prince of Big Hair,” “Book of No More Mormons,” “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Cries” and “The Film When It Happens.”
Puryear encourages anyone who is a fan of musical theater to see “Spamilton.” The show, he points out, is only an hour and 15 minutes long — with no intermission.
“You’ll get a night of musical comedy and dancing,” Puryear said. “It’s a great night out. It’s fun filled, it’s not too long and it’s nonstop laughter.”
If You Go
Where: The Phoenix Theatre, 1825 N. Central Ave., Phoenix.
When: 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Now through Aug. 11.
Info: 602-254-2151, phoenixtheatre.com.