'Fifty Shades of Grey' Musical Parody Is Actually Really Freakin’ Cool
Prepare yourself: There will be spit takes.
By Naveen Kumar
Spanking in the dark. Canned fog. Absurdly hot people. Enough suggestive puns to polish off that sexting thesaurus you’ve been working on. 50 Shades! The Musical: The Original Parody, is here, it’s real, and it’s pretty much the stuff of your wildest dreams. Because who’s never dreamed of a fisting conga line? (Note: all on-stage fisting is simulated and no performers were harmed in the making of this production without being previously informed of their safe word.)
If you’ve got high hopes for the Hollywood adaptation of E.L. James’ ubiquitous soft-core tale of love and petit domination, you’ll be holding your breath until Vday 2015. Before lining up at the Cineplex with your sweetie and a bag of soft tomatoes, you can pony up to the full bar at the Elektra Theatre off Times Square, liquor up, and get ready to ugly laugh.
Whether you’re one of millions who’ve read James’ book (ironically or otherwise), no prior knowledge of the salacious romance between Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey is necessary here. We come to the story as so many have before us — in a book club with our best girlfriends.
Three randy suburban wives on a quest to unleash their inner goddesses (one of whom might just proposition you with a double-headed dildo by evening’s end) lead us though the fated romance. When we meet Anastasia (a doe-eyed and hilarious Amber Petty), nearing college graduation and working at a hardware store, something’s missing in her life. “There’s A Hole Inside Me,” she sings, and it’s clear this virgin is ready to make some friends.
Her roommate Katherine (Kaitlyn Frotton) is all libido and vocal fry (imagine a straight version of Natasha Lyonne’s character in But I’m a Cheerleader). And Anastasia’s nearest suitor is an earnest would-be Latin lover named Jose (Tim Murray) with a certain affinity for dramatic exits and untamed pubic hair.
Deep down Anastasia wants more, and she gets all that and a whole mess of kink from Christian, who is, well – maybe not quite as you may have imagined. Played by a tireless and hysterical Chris Grace, he’s not far from your average buttoned-up businessman, who works out in a wrestling singlet and propositions ladies by the roomful. But he has that certain X-factor that Ana can’t resist.
Their bizarre courtship, his refusal to be touched, the contract he demands Ana sign giving him total control of her body — all lifted straight from the book — provide priceless comic fodder. And of course, there’s the spanking, the leash duet, and – well, we’d hate to ruin the surprise.
For all its jaw-dropping, pitch-perfect obscenity, 50 Shades! is also smart and well-crafted. Clocking in at 90 minutes (including an intermission for boozing, natch), the show hits several peaks of high hilarity and stays on its comedic toes all night. James’ smutty best-seller is ripe for parody, and this one nails it at every turn — including the book’s questionable gender politics.
The show’s creators, many veterans of improv ensemble Baby Wants Candy and Chicago’s comedy hothouse Second City, collaborated on the musical’s every aspect. According to director and co-writer Al Samuels, the producer’s first idea to capitalize on Fifty Shades mania was buying a rope factory — apparently twine’s been flying off hardware store shelves and onto suburban bedposts since the book’s publication (true story).
Instead, he encouraged the troupe to write a parody, which began at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival followed by a national tour prior to the New York run. Asked which moments had audiences around the world shrieking and gasping with greatest abandon, Samuel’s pointed to Christian and Ana’s first time. It’s what he and the company call the “muff dive ballet” — a feat of theatrical beauty you’ll just have to experience for yourself.
As for the movie, if Samuels had a spot on the casting couch, Jamie Dornan and his erstwhile predecessor would’ve both been cast aside and Christian Grey would be played onscreen by a hologram of Mel Gibson from Braveheart: He’ll take your freedom, and you’ll like it!