Soooo ~ I saw this little 90 minute show at the Dr. Phillips Center last week. No, it wasn’t part of the Broadway series, but it did have a lot to do with Broadway. No doubt, you’ve heard of the tremendously successful musical, Hamilton. Well, Spamilton: An American Parody is here in Orlando on tour for a short time and my son and I had the chance to spend an evening laughing hysterically while watching it.
I was invited as media to watch and review this event. All opinions are mine and mine alone.
Spamilton: An American Parody on Tour
Months prior to its arrival, I had heard that Spamilton: An American parody was coming to the center. Ironically, I was not one of the fortunate to have seen the Tony-award winning production of Hamilton when it came to town last year. However, our family is quite familiar with the musical’s soundtrack. The boys play it – all – the – time!! (I always seem to be “In the Room Where It Happens,” too) So, we were at least aware of the story-line before we saw its spoof.
I say “spoof,” but it’s more of a parody ~ an intentional exaggeration of a story to draw a desired effect. Certainly you’ve heard of Spamelot, the satirical take on Camelot that was very much loved by President Kennedy and his wife. Spamilton is the comedic twist on a story much loved by another US President and his spouse, President and Mrs. Obama and their love for Hamilton. The no-intermission production is filled with one-liners, ironic phrases and hilarious jabs that keep you entertained so well that you don’t even realize you’ve been sitting there for just under two hours without taking a break to go to the bathroom.
Interestingly, Spamilton is not a comedic take on the actual story of Alexander Hamilton, as written by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Rather, it’s an exaggerated telling of Miranda’s journey as he brought the idea of Hamilton to life and onto the Broadway stage. It takes the audience through a hilarious 90 minute adventure from the dream’s inception to its Tony success. Its tongue-in-cheek routine rips on rap, Miranda’s lofty dreams and the journey to top other Broadway blockbusters.
Speaking of Broadway blockbusters, the show incorporates dozens of other musicals and productions into the script. From Gypsy and Cats to Phantom of the Opera and Wicked, familiar characters and tunes are seen and heard throughout the show. Not to mention, the audience will recognize several of the famous melodies and harmonies straight from the Hamilton musical itself (just don’t expect to hear the same lyrics).
The audience may even catch a few references to other Miranda works – such as Moana and In The Heights!
Spamilton: An American Parody was written by Gerard Alessandrini (famed creator of Forbidden Broadway). The small production debuted in 2016 at New York’s Triad Theatre. It quickly moved up the ranks to the 47th Street Theatre and ultimately ran on the same stage as Hamilton itself (The Richard Rodgers Theatre). In 2017, a Chicago production opened and then London welcomed the show in 2018. The national tour itself has been making its way around the country for just over a year now and is growing in popularity.
You can read more about Gerard Alessandrini and the story behind Spamilton here!
What I liked about the show…
It was an interesting and unique performance to say the least. My son said, for him, it seemed to parallel that of the Saturday Night Live High School Theatre Show routines he has seen (with parental discretion, of course). For me, I initially had difficulty hearing and understanding what was happening. However, I quickly caught on and was completely entranced within the first ten to fifteen minutes.
The entire show is all about personality. You know the scene changes based on the personality changes in each character. It’s a small cast, taking on numerous roles and enduring several quick costume changes. The set is dramatically simplistic, but the portrayals are truly larger than life.
The less than ten person cast worked beautifully together in their delivery of every scene. You would think they had been working together for quite some time based on their perfected interactions. However, it came as a surprise at the end to learn that one of the leads had only been with the company for a few days and that a few of the cast were actually celebrating their national tour debut with this production.
Now, the vocals were huge for me (big surprise there, right?). Even with only one female voice (Marissa Hecker), there was a perfect blend of harmonies that satisfied the inner mezzo soprano / alto in me. They were even able to pull off various accents and languages, which just demonstrated the wide range of talent of these particular performers.
As noted above, the show has a minimalist set, but there are numerous (yet simplistic) costume changes and a handful of props used. The constant character and costume changes were something else that were executed spectacularly. The small cast on that small stage made each transition look effortless and smooth, some scenes changing within seconds right before our eyes.
The production is extremely fast-paced, moving constantly, so I can imagine that everything had to have been in perfect order backstage for things to move as well as they did (Kudos to the crew!!! I’m sure it’s no easy task to keep track of that many costume changes and props in a small, unfamiliar space).
Of particular note…
I was quite impressed with Marissa Hecker’s performance (find her in the last show photo of the post) . Marissa was the only female in this onstage production. As part of her duties, she had to take on several iconic personalities such as Bernadette Peters, Liza Manelli and Barbara Streisand. She did an exquisite job communicating those roles effectively ~ from matching their accents to mimicking their look.
What I didn’t like about the performance
At times, it was very difficult for me to hear or understand the lyrics being sung (or spoken). Of course, that could have been due to a variety of reasons. For one, my son believes there were some microphone issues at the beginning. Another reason could have been due to our location. In this particular theater (read more about it below!!), the back row of the main floor is against a wall, with the second floor jutting out overhead. That could have created a barrier that prevented sound from getting to our seats specifically and effectively. A third reason could have been because the songs were intentionally sung /rapped at a fast pace, so as to spoof the actual show. I mean, that’s the style Miranda was going for after all. Of course, it could have been simply because I’m getting old.
Other than that (the inability to understand the lyrics at times or follow the story in the beginning), I couldn’t find much else I didn’t like.
Would I recommend Spamilton: An American Parody?
I will say this about the show. Some of the lines are crude, profanity is used, some dancing is suggestive, and there are topics questionable for younger audiences. However, I was relatively comfortable with my 16 year old being there with me. In fact, he may very well have been the youngest person in the audience that night. I’m not so sure I would allow my 13 year old to see it, though.
Other than that, if you enjoy comedic, fast-paced productions that don’t let up for a second, this is a good one to watch. It is high energy and extremely entertaining ~ worth an evening out.
Before attending, however, I would suggest three things.
- Be at least somewhat familiar with the cast of Hamilton.
- Go in understanding the general intent of this particular parody (Google is great for that).
- Have a basic knowledge of Broadway.
These three things should help prevent you from getting lost and prepare you for what you are about to experience. Other than that, go enjoy the show!
Meeting T.J. Newton
In the lobby after the show, my son and I had the opportunity to meet TJ Newton, who played Lin-Manuel Miranda in the production.
While chatting, we learned a little about the show’s lead (though the whole production is full of tremendous talent!). TJ himself actually just joined the tour the Friday prior and was very excited to be making his national tour debut with this production. He originally hails from Manhattan, but has been in numerous other productions in Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New York (including West Side Story, Aida, In The Heights, Ghost and La Cage Aux Folles). A dancer at heart, he is spreading his wings with this role and exercising his other talents. For one, he has a tremendous voice (should I be so bold as to say better than Lin-Manuel Miranda’s ~ lol). We sincerely enjoyed watching him take the stage and then the privileged opportunity to chat with him after.
One of the memories we will take away from that night is the encouragement TJ gave to Aaryn, a high school senior who can’t imagine his life without theater. Though Aaryn’s primary desire in life is not to grace a Broadway stage, he does have a tremendous love for performing and will miss it once he graduates this year. TJ encouraged him to find ways to continue feeding that passion ~ community theater, smaller productions, college theater troupes. There are many ways to entertain a crowd and numerous outlets to exercise one’s theatrical skills and passion.
It was clearly evident how much that kind of encouragement influenced my son. I swear I saw his smile grow three times in that moment.
Catch Spamilton: An American Parody here at the Dr. Phillips Center before March 5th. From there, the show will continues its national tour in Nashville, TN, and San Franciscio, CA.
About The Dr. Phillips Center
Did you know that the Dr. Phillips Center has more than just the Walt Disney Theater inside? In fact, the center is coming closer and closer to opening a brand new, state of the art theater that will reportedly have the most perfect of acoustics!!! (I have chills of excitement running up and down my spine when I hear that!!)
This particular performance of Spamilton: An American Parody was held in the Alexis & Jim Pugh Theater, a unique black box that sits at the top of stairs leading the second level. The small, intimate space is two levels high and holds only 294 individual seats (292 with full accessibility usage). When you enter, you are surrounded by white aluminum balconies that glow with tiny white lights ~ such a beautiful touch. Of course, to add to its beauty are 32 vibrant abstract pieces that hover above you on the ceiling. These pieces were specially made by artist Tom McGrath and are full of color and life.
It’s a completely different and unique experience to watch a performance in the Alexis & Jim Pugh theater. It feels more personal and gives both the actors and the audience the opportunity to connect better. If you ever have the chance to watch a show in this space, I highly recommend it. However, I do recommend not sitting in Row M on the Main Floor, if you can help it. Even so, I still feel you’ll still enjoy the intimacy of the experience wherever you find yourself seated.
DID YOU KNOW? ~ You can rent the Alexis & Jim Pugh theater space for a special event!! For more details, click here!
Like what you read? Check out my other theatrical reviews!!
- A Review of Mean Girls, The Musical | A Mom of Teens’ Perspective
- “Dear Evan Hansen…You Are Not Alone:” A Theatre Review
- Review: Les Misérables Graces the Dr. Phillips Center Stage in Orlando
- Balancing Life like a Fiddler on the Roof ~ #OrlandoBroadwaySeries
- An Escape to Margaritaville: Worth The Trip?
- Orlando Broadway Series continues with Hello, Dolly!
- What’s So Right About The Play That Goes Wrong?
- Review: Anastasia, The Musical, on the Dr. Phillips Center Stage
- Come From Away: The Story The World Needed To Hear (#OrlandoBroadwaySeries)
- Five Reasons You Should See Disney’s Aladdin On Tour