Spamilton: An American Parody

created, written, and directed by Gerard Alessandrini

SpamiltonMy wife, my daughter and I enjoy the musical Hamilton. But we can also appreciate a bit of a takedown of the phenomenon. Spamilton: An American Parody fits the bill. My family saw it on a Saturday night at Proctors Theatre in Schenectady. I was attending a library gala at the time, so I went on the previous Thursday.

The first song made it clear that it was Lin-Manuel Miranda who would be the target of many of the jokes. And, according to the program, a skewering was allowed by Manuel and his co-creators.

The bulk of the ninety minutes were played by five actors. Jared Alexander played Daveed Diggs, who played Lafayette and Jefferson in the original cast. Datus Puryear was Aaron Burr and the actor who played him, Leslie Odom, Jr. Rendell DeBose played various other characters, from Ben Franklin to Annie. Adrian Lopez is a ringer for a younger Lin-Manuel.

Paloma D’Auria played ALL of the leading ladies, sometimes with puppets. She also portrayed many of the divas of Broadway. Brandon Kinley only played King George III and one other role.

Not every setup worked. But the piece, created, written, and directed by Gerard Alessandrini, was so full of ideas that it barely mattered. The energy and talent of the five primary players were astonishing for ninety minutes, with no intermission.

Reviews

The New York Times review calls Spamilton “convulsively funny”. The Huffington Post raves “you don’t have to see Hamilton to have side-splitting fun at Spamilton.” True, but it DOES help to be at least familiar with the Tony-winning musical. Here’s a preview clip. The show will be in Kansas City, MO, and Greenville, SC, in the coming weeks.

Incidentally, my wife and I also attended a lecture on September 29 at Siena College. Hamilton: How the Musical Remixes American History by Richard Bell, a history professor from Maryland was presented by the Albany Institute of History and Art.

Bell is a HUGE fan, yet he noted the shortcomings of Miranda’s work, notably the role that women played. She suggested that Hamilton failed the Bechdel Test in that the women in it who talk to each other, mostly talk about a man, the named character. It may be an overly simplistic metric, but it is a tool.

Alexander Hamilton: “Just you wait”

the world turned upside-down

hamilton logoBy our calculations, my family has listened to the original cast recording of the musical Hamilton a minimum of 250 times in the past four years. This is not an exaggeration, and for my daughter, who had it on REPEAT as she went to bed, probably a vast undercount.

She knew/knows all the actors in the original cast and which roles they played. She has books, pictures, calendars about that production. For her part, my wife has finished the lengthy Ron Chernow book that Lin-Manuel Miranda read which eventually led to the musical.

We’ve watched Lin-Manuel Miranda’s performance at the White House Poetry Jam Writer on May 12, 2009, accompanied by Alex Lacamoire. This was Six Years Before the Play Hit the Broadway Stage.

We’ve seen, more than once, Hamilton’s America which debuted on October 21, 2016 as part of PBS’s “Great Performances”. We viewed the Tonys when the pop culture Broadway phenomenon won 11 of the 16 Tony Awards® for which it was nominated.

The creators received a special award at the Kennedy Center Honors. We’ve listened to the Weird Al parody.

And around Albany, NY, in particular, there’s the Hamilton Effect, with several sites of significance to him and especially the Schuylers, the family he married into. The Albany Institute of History and Art has an exhibit The Schuyler Sisters and Their Circle right now.

By coincidence, the Park Playhouse in Albany staged a production of In the Heights in July, Miranda’s FIRST Tony-winning musical. My wife and I enjoyed the show, puzzled by a local critic’s dis of the lead’s performance.

When we knew that Hamilton was coming to Proctor’s Theatre in Schenectady, we bought three tickets each for the six shows in the package, back in May of 2018. (We had purchased two season ticket the year before, so it wasn’t that much of a stretch.) We weren’t going to throw away our shot at seeing the show. The wait seemed interminable.

Finally, it’s H-day, August 18. My wife switches out her purse because large, non-clear ones are banned.

For a piece I already know so well, will it be as enjoyable as I anticipated? The answer is an enthusiastic YES. This in spite of the fact that they used a standby, Wonza Johnson, usually played by Edred Utomi, for the title role.

My buddy Amy Biancolli wrote on Facebook: “It’s more than a musical. It’s an opera and a ballet and a discourse on grief and a thrilling, epic poem on the arc and nature of history. And it’s hilarious. And mesmerizing. And infectious. And moving.”

I did learn there are a few spoken-word bits in the story. My wife picked up on some plot points. I don’t think I cried more than three or four times. I’m convinced that understanding the libretto beforehand enhances the appreciation of the story. Even before the performance, Hamilton has been firmly lodged in my Top Five favorite musicals, along with West Side Story and Fiddler on the Roof.

March rambling: as good as Jacinda Ardern

John Oliver’s Monica Lewinsky Interview Should Be Required for Internet Use. The Secret Life of Muslims: An education.

I helped convict two men of murder. I’ve regretted it ever since.

The Secret Life of Muslims: An education.

Jacinda Ardern Has Rewritten the Script for How a Nation Grieves After a Terrorist Attack and Why The World Looks To New Zealand — And Not US and NY Times Editorial Board: U.S. Deserves Leader ‘As Good As Jacinda Ardern’.

These Are the World’s Healthiest Nations. The US is #35 on the list.

Early responses to the Mueller report from Weekly Sift and AmeriNZ.

Public Shaming: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver; this Monica Lewinsky Interview Should Be Required for Internet Use.

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah: The Reparations Debate: Should America Compensate the Descendants of Slaves?

Why You Should Stop Saying ‘Committed Suicide’.

The Trump–Rosie Feud That Ensnared Barbara Walters and Blew Up The View.

paranoia

Top 10 Most Populous City Ranking History (1950-2035).

Confronting Season-Change Denial.

Vlogbrothers: Writing and Marriage Advice from Michelle Obama and How to Get a Colonoscopy.

The ‘Men’s Liberation’ Movement Time Forgot.

The only metric of success that really matters is the one we ignore.

When Hoarding Is a Disorder.

Mispronouncing Students’ Names: A Slight That Can Cut Deep.

8-year-old homeless refugee takes chess world by storm.

The Power Of Doing Only One Thing.

Chuck Miller spoiler: My big problem with the new Shazam! movie.

Jim Carrey and Michel Gondry on Making Eternal Sunshine.

Green Book: History vs. Hollywood.

Jim Meskimen doing some impressionist “warm-up” exercises.

Happy retirement to Joe Sinnott.

Historian finds first grand slam in MLB history — in Rensselaer County, NY.

Maple Sugaring Time In The South End of Albany.

Now I Know: The Trail Ink Left Behind and How a Silly Social Media Thing Helped Break the Ice and When You’re Glad The Bank Isn’t Trustworthy.

MUSIC

Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind – MonaLisa Twins featuring John Sebastian.

Postmodern Jukebox: Video Killed The Radio Star in the style of Queen ft. Cunio and Pinky And The Brain Theme.

King of Anything – Sara Bareilles.

Workshop versions of songs from Hamilton.

Unforgettable Covers of Aretha Franklin songs.

The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore – Walker Brothers.

In Ireland -Sir Herbert Hamilton Harty.

The Irish Suite – Leroy Anderson.

K-Chick Radio: Harry Nilsson.

Coverville: 1256: Tributes for Keith Flint, Dick Dale and Cover Stories for Ric Ocasek and Nick Lowe.

Light Calvary overture – Franz von Suppe.

George Winston’s Linus and Lucy: The Music of Vince Guaraldi.

Dick Dale, Surf Guitar Legend, Dead At 81.

Aubrey Logan and her band talk about her new album Where the Sunshine Is Expensive, including a couple clips of the niece/backup singer Rebecca Jade.

Kennedy Center: Cher, Glass, McEntire, Shorter

Wayne Shorter has a 2018 magnum opus, Emanon

Kennedy Center Honors 2018

“On December 2, 2018, the Kennedy Center held its 41st annual national celebration of the arts — The Kennedy Center Honors.” For the second year in a row, the guy in the White House won’t be there.

“The 2018 Honorees include singer and actress Cher, composer and pianist Philip Glass, Country music entertainer Reba McEntire, and jazz saxophonist and composer Wayne Shorter.”

I wrote at length about Cher on her 70th birthday a couple years ago. SINCE then, she continues to do concerts, received the Billboard Icon Award, co-starred in the romantic musical comedy film Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again and put out a hit album of ABBA covers called Dancing Queen.

She’s now the subject of “The Cher Show, a jukebox musical based on Cher’s life and music, [which] officially premiered at the Oriental Theatre, Chicago, on June 28, 2018, and had its Broadway debut on December 3, 2018.”

Philip Glass (b. 1937) is a minimalist composer. Some soundtrack of his used to drive an old girlfriend of mine crazy when I played it. I have two of his CDs; one is The “Low” Symphony, based on the music of David Bowie.

The other is Songs from Liquid Days, “a collection of songs composed by… Glass with lyrics by Paul Simon, Suzanne Vega, David Byrne, and Laurie Anderson… The recording features performances by Bernard Fowler, the Kronos Quartet, Janice Pendarvis, Douglas Perry, The Roches, Linda Ronstadt…” Listen to Forgetting.

Reba McEntire (b. 1955) is one of the most successful country artists ever; if I have any of her songs, it’s on a random compilation. But she shows up in films, on TV and even on Broadway. She’s ubiquitous.

Wayne Shorter (b. 1933) is a major jazz saxophonist. He played with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and Miles Davis’ jazz quintet in the 1960s. I know him best from the jazz-fusion group Weather Report.

He has a 2018 magnum opus, Emanon. “Encompassing three discs of music (just over two hours) and an original sci-fi graphic novel, the project is a grand statement that seeks to blur distinctions between the premeditated idea and the spontaneous gesture, or between ‘classical’ and ‘jazz’ as they’re usually framed.”

“This year, the co-creators of Hamilton — writer and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda, director Thomas Kail, choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler, and music director Alex Lacamoire — received a unique Kennedy Center Honors as trailblazing creators of a transformative work that defies category.”

Though I’ve not yet seen Hamilton, about first Treasury Secretary, I’m in that group that has heard so often that I know the songs as well as I’m familiar with On the Street Where You Live, even though I’ve never seen My Fair Lady.

The writers of JEOPARDY! use Hamilton references a lot, to mixed results: “This musical includes the song ‘The Room Where It Happens'” was a missed Daily Double. No one knew “In the entrance hall of Monticello Jefferson placed a bust of himself opposite one of this Cabinet secretary & rival.”

“The Honors Gala will be broadcast on the CBS Network for the 41st consecutive year as a two-hour primetime special on Wednesday, December 26 at 8 p.m. ET.” 2017 Honoree Gloria Estefan hosts.

July Rambling #1: Even darkness must pass

Lin-Manuel Miranda and William Daniels Talk Hamilton and 1776

Sister Leslie is out of the hospital, as of ndependence Day. Still healing at home. More probably on July 23.

Flirting with Fascism

The Coming Collapse and Why It is Extraordinary

We Were Warned: What the Movie Villains Should Have Taught Us

As our democracy is dismantled right before their eyes, Americans remain silent

“America First” means China wins

During CBS interview, government agents chillingly showed up to intimidate former ICE spokesman

On July 4th Eve, Jeff Sessions Quietly Rescinds a Bunch of Protections for Minorities

If Pixar Made A DACA Movie

The retirement of Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy is as bad as it seems and Anthony Kennedy, You Are a Total Disgrace to America

Larry Kudlow is Never Ever Right

If You Think Basic Income is ‘Free Money’ or Socialism, Think Again

Turks Have Voted Away Their Democracy

Trust Issues, examining the state of trust in 2018

Fatal accidents, off-the-books workers, a union once run by a mobster. The rogue world of one of New York’s major trash haulers

That Property Down In Coeymans: The City of Albany is still trying to get rid of the proposed site of Jerry’s Dump

Tim Berners-Lee has seen his creation debased by everything from fake news to mass surveillance. But he’s got a plan to fix it

Radical Democrats Are Pretty Reasonable

Israeli airline says it will no longer accommodate Orthodox Jewish men who refuse to sit next to women

There’s some good in this world. And it’s worth fighting for

An Interview with Deborah Mends, UK College Diploma Graduate and Owner of Your Visual Mind – I first met my friend in the summer of 1977 in NYC

Atomic Roundtable: Harlan Ellison 1934-2018

Gene Editing: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

How’s the Water?

Agent Zigzag

Geographical oddities

What to Do When an ATM Won’t Give You Any Money

The Counterfeit Queen of Soul

Lin-Manuel Miranda and William Daniels Talk Hamilton, 1776, Mr. Feeny, and More (2016)

Five Muppeteers explain how they operate their characters on Sesame Street

Shat!

Now I Know: When the Jazz Didn’t Stop Playing and How To Fool the World Starting with Two All-Beef Patties and The Macroeconomic Madness Behind Extra Cheesy Pizza

Yes! The Wedding of Winnie & Thomas

MUSIC

I Don’t Know – Paul McCartney
Come On To Me – Paul McCartney

We Are the World video, re-created by a bunch of talented folks from Broadway

Rasta Children – Playing for Change

First Burn (Hamilton)

Smells Like Karen Carpenter – Moneyshot Cosmonauts

Beautiful Life – Rick Astley

Coverville 1223: Cover Stories for George Michael, Men At Work, and Cyndi Lauper

K-Chuck Radio: Gorillaz in our midst and It’s All About That Bass

Friends don’t let friends clap on the 1 and 3 (Harry Connick Jr)