Gerard Alessandrini created "Spamilton: An American Parody" as a loving spoof that follows Lin-Manuel Miranda's creative genius birthing the revolutionary musical "Hamilton."

"It should be about Lin-Manuel creating the show because he kind of essentially saved Broadway, because there was really nothing new coming out of Broadway,'' Alessandrini said by phone from the Hanna Theatre Wednesday, the day before the show opened in Cleveland.

"Lin-Manuel brought back the idea that Broadway can find a new way to tell a story with song."

"It's mostly my fantasy of what went through his mind,'' Alessandrini said of Miranda's journey. "It's sprinkled with a few truisms to make it seem real."

"Spamilton," which has played off-Broadway and in Chicago, Los Angeles and London, launched its North American tour Thursday at Playhouse Square's Hanna Theatre, where it will run through Jan. 6. This "singing, dancing, comedy revolution" features a cast of seven in sexy vests and corsets, similar to the original show, and tight jodhpur-style pants — with the "Hamilton" star logo on the rear.

Just as groundbreaking as Stephen Sondheim and Maury Yeston and Rodgers and Hammerstein's works were in their time, Miranda's contemporary blend of rap and hip-hop in telling the story of our nation's founding fathers was groundbreaking, Alessandrini said. And because it's the most famous show on earth, it was ripe for parody.

"Certainly any show that's about a serious subject is spoofable," said Alessandrini, the creator of all 25 editions of "Forbidden Broadway" that have spoofed the musical theater world since 1982. "Any show that's trying to take on a serious subject is always a good target because it's fun to make fun of the drama."

In Alessandrini's parody versions of "Hamilton" tunes, "My Shot" becomes "His Shot," in which the Miranda character proclaims both "I am not gonna let Broadway rot,'' and "I am not throwing away my pot."

The Miranda character tells his opening story, "Lin-Manuel as Hamilton,'' to the tune "Alexander Hamilton." Among the many spoofy song titles are "Daveed Diggs — the Fresh Prince of Big Hair" and "Look Around (The Schuyler Puppets)." Yes, the show has puppets.

In this case, the Schuyler sisters are looking around for a good show to see in New York in 2018, but there aren't any other than "Hamilton." Alessandrini offers a solution with his Broadway mashups "The Lion King and I" and "Avenue Cher."

Alessandrini, who made his living from the "Forbidden Broadway" shows, said when "Hamilton" burst on the scene in 2015, it was the biggest hit to come to New York since he moved there in 1979.

"Here I am sort of trying to be a masterful parodist and then this divine hit comedy comes along that's bigger than anything else I've ever done. I felt obligated to do it."

He doesn't know Miranda well but has met him a few times. "Spamilton" has Miranda's admiration: He saw the show off-Broadway and said on Twitter on Aug. 10, 2016, "I laughed my brains out."

Alessandrini, 65, said he relied on Miranda's book "Hamilton: The Revolution" for about 90 percent of what he needed to create "Spamilton." The Internet had an "avalanche of spam" about the musical and its stars that provided the rest, including the parody's title.

The New York Times has described Alessandrini as an incisive and illuminating critic and historian of musical theater through his decades of work on "Forbidden Broadway" and other parodies. Alessandrini said he considers himself a historian but not really a critic.

"I've actually seen the last generation of Broadway shows firsthand,'' said the creator, who moved from Boston to New York at age 21. "Even though I criticize shows, they're comedic criticism. They're like something you'd find on the old 'Carol Burnett Show.' They're not serious criticism."

In "Spamilton,'' Alessandrini has some fun with Miranda as a wordsmith including in the tune "Aaron Burr, Sir, Nervous-er."

"Lin-Manuel was showing off his adeptness at rhyming," Alessandrini said. "He's a really good lyricist. But if he had made one more '-er' rhyme, it would cross over to parody, so that's what I did. … He left it on the side of genius and I've crossed it over to the side of absurdity."

"Spamilton" also spoofs "Hamilton's" choreographic movement to help create well-defined character impersonations: "We use all the 'Hamilton' signature moves … and then we mix it up with Beyonce," Alessandrini said of Gerry McIntyre's choreography.

The creator brings a number of his "Forbidden Broadway" divas into "Spamilton," from Patti LuPone to Barbra Streisand. That works especially well for Streisand, who in reality dressed in Revolutionary costume to present the 2016 Tony Award for best musical to Miranda.

Babs is so into "Hamilton," in "Spamilton," she sings "I wanna be in the film when it happens." Other diva delights include Liza Minnelli warning the Miranda character that he raps too much, and scenes with Mary Poppins and Moana, representing some of Miranda's post-"Hamilton" work.

 

Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or kclawson@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her at @KerryClawsonABJ or www.facebook.com/kclawsonabj.