Catch ‘Spamilton’ all summer long in the Greer Cabaret Theater
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Parody is probably another one.
Hard on the heels of the record-breaking Broadway hit musical “Hamilton,” there is “Spamilton: An American Parody.”
The meta-musical was created by playwright and parodist Gerard Alessandrini, best known for “Forbidden Broadway,” a long-running four-person cabaret send-up of Broadway musicals, show tunes, plots, characters, actors, directors and anything else even remotely related to the genre.
“Spamilton” offers more of the same, says New York-based music director Fred Barton, as the character of Alexander Hamilton tells the story of how actor-composer Lin-Manuel Miranda came to New York and created “Hamilton” — while also parodying more Broadway productions and personalities.
Back to the beginning
Barton says he was in on both Alessandrini shows from the very beginning, and has been traveling back and forth from the Big Apple to Pittsburgh since February in preparation for the CLO production.
Barton was a young pianist in New York when his best friend asked him to play piano for a little two-person revue that would run for a couple of nights in “a little piano bar” called Palsson’s Supper Club. He says he didn’t think it would be worth his time but reluctantly agreed.
The second person involved turned out to be Alessandrini. The show itself was the rough draft of “Forbidden Broadway,” first performed in January 1982 with Barton as co-creator/arranger/performer/pianist.
“(Alessandrini) just has a knack for writing parody. Tears were streaming down my face, I was laughing so hard at the lyrics,” Barton says. “I’m glad I got off my high horse and agreed to do it.”
Barton went on to work as an arranger, composer, conductor and more, on and off Broadway, in television, with symphonies and individual performers. His television work includes composing for “The Magic Schoolbus” and “Eureeka’s Castle.”
Out of the blue
Cut to 2016. Barton says, out of the blue, he got a call from Alessandrini, who needed a pianist for his new parody of “Hamilton.” He asked if Barton knew of any young and hungry talents.
“I said, ‘Gerard, I don’t know who’s out there — and I’ll do it myself,’” he says.
“Seven days later, we were doing it in front of an audience,” he says. “We were in the exact same club, all coming back to our roots, and it was like lightning strikes twice.”
“Spamilton” opened Sept. 8, 2016, at New York’s Triad Theatre. The original 18-performance run was extended through May 28, 2017.
Since then, it’s played in various other theaters and cities, including Chicago and London.
“Pittsburgh is the sixth production we’ve put together, and every time it just gets better,” Barton says.
One thing “Spamilton” has that sets it above other song-and-dance revues, Barton says, is a “genius choreographer” in Gerry McIntyre: “He’s one of the few I’ve seen who can get laughs from just the choreography alone.”
Making his Pittsburgh CLO debut as Lin-Manuel Miranda is New York-based T.J. Newton, who played Usnavi in Pittsburgh Musical Theatre’s recent production of Miranda’s “In the Heights.”
Also making their CLO debuts are leads Justin Lonesome (Ben Franklin and George Washington) and Tru Verret-Fleming (Leslie Odom Jr. and Aaron Burr). Other cast members are Erin Ramirez (leading ladies), LaTrea Rembert (Daveed Diggs), Austin Rivers (swing), Jessica Val Ortiz (swing) and Nick Stamatakis, assistant music director who will also portray King George III.
Shirley McMarlin is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Shirley at 724-836-5750, [email protected] or via Twitter .