It didn’t take long for director and parodist Gerard Alessandrini to sink his hooks into Hamilton. The creator of the long running Forbidden Broadway series is now amusing audiences with Spamilton, a gut-busting riff on the Lin-Manuel Miranda blockbuster. Along the way, he takes the rest of the theater world with him, poking fun at current and former Broadway musicals. Spamilton has generated so much buzz, that the New York production has been extended several times. Performances will begin in March for a Chicago staging and plans for a mounting in Los Angeles, London, and a National tour are underway.
Actor Nicholas Edwards is making his New York, Off Broadway debut in the intimate ensemble piece. The Hamilton, New Jersey native (ironic, but true!), recently chatted over the phone to talk about how he prepared to spoof a show he hadn’t seen, performing in front of Lin-Manuel Miranda, and keeping fits of laughter under control. He also reveals the secret to scoring tickets to the board’s hottest show. (Short answer: star in a spoof and make sure Miranda sees it.)
MD: How did you become involved with this production?
NE: My agent got me an audition. At that time, it was an unnamed satirical show. I had no idea what it was about, but they asked me to prepare something funny and something from Hamilton. Later, my agent called and told me that I’d be in the world premiere of Spamilton. Voila! Here we are.
MD: Did you see Hamilton and if so, who did you sleep with to get tickets?
NE: (Laughs) Before getting involved with the show, I hadn’t seen it. All I knew was the original cast recording and online clips. When Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda came to see our show, he asked the cast if we had seen it and most of us hadn’t. So he and his creative team supplied us with tickets. It was amazing. I’ve seen theatre throughout my whole life but I understood what all the hype was about.
MD: You primarily cover the Daveed Diggs role in Spamilton. Has Diggs, who won the Tony for his Hamilton portrayals of Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson, come to the show yet?
NE: No! But I’ve meaning to reach out to him for an invitation. Leslie Odom, Jr. nor Renee Elise Goldsberry have seen it either. We’re hoping that as word spreads, they’ll come out to see themselves spoofed.
MD: What was the experience like to perform for Miranda?
NE: Some of us decided not to know, but ultimately word spread and we all knew he was there. We were more excited than nervous. About halfway through that performance, we realized that he was on our side and was having as much fun as we were.
MD: What comments did he have for the cast after the show?
NE: He was just really happy. He said we were awesome and hysterical. He had tears in his eyes and was humbled because being spoofed is the greatest honor one can receive. He tweeted about us and endorsed the show.
MD: Everything in your show is larger than life, but how did you prepare for the role? Did you read the Ron Chernow biography on Alexander Hamilton or draw from any of the original source material?
NE: I started researching Daveed Diggs’ mannerisms, gestures, and antics. YouTube was especially helpful with that. I also watched clips of him from talk shows, as well as videos of his hip-hop group, Clipping. Obviously, I exaggerated his body language. We also had the libretto of Hamilton, which was incredibly useful.
MD: Besides the hilarity factor, there is always an element of truth in satire and parody. What truths do you think are being conveyed in this show-either about Hamilton or the Broadway community as a whole?
NE: We have fun picking on Hamilton and Lin-Manuel Miranda, but like all musical theater, it has heart in it. By the end of the show, we sing, Raise a glass to Broadway/It will always be around/No matter what it goes through. Without Broadway, we wouldn’t have this. For some people, it gives them a cathartic chance to laugh about Hamilton, a show that has taken itself so seriously. Spamilton is truly a raised glass to the arts community. It will in fact, always be around. That is the truth of this piece.
MD: What was the rehearsal process like?
NE: We had 3 weeks, but we had to quickly find out what worked and what didn’t. Even in previews, we changed quite a bit. We had to stay on our toes.
MD: Have there been moments on-stage when you’ve lost your composure?
NE: Every night, things happen in the show that force me to keep it together. But laughter spawns laughter and sometimes, audience members make us laugh. There is some audience interaction in this and one of my lines is, “There’s a lady who’s confused who’s the president.” A day after the Presidential election this past November, I delivered that line to a lady in the front row who said, “Yeah! Very confused! ” We all laughed. Moments like that make the show better for both the cast and theatergoers because we’re all sharing it as a community.
MD: I must admit that the night I saw the show, I was not in the best of moods—nor was the friend I’d invited. By the end though, it totally changed our personas. That’s the power of laughter.
NE: What I love about comedy is that you have to be able to laugh at life and realize that the things you are taking way too seriously are not a big deal.
MD: Generally speaking, I can tell you that everyone is enjoying this show! It’s so much fun.
NE: Thanks so much.
Spamilton is now playing at The Triad (West 72nd Street between Columbus and Amsterdam. Showtimes Vary. Click here for tickets and information.