Not all of us have read E.L. James' erotic romance trilogy Fifty Shades of Grey, but we can all find the humor in it, as learned from last night's opening of a new musical spoof, Spank! The Fifty Shades Parody, at McGlohon Theater.
Of course, the folks who came out to support opening night of the touring show, which stops in Charlotte for a total of five performances, had probably read the books. Most of them also fit the description of early thirty-somethings to middle-aged women (some even brought their husbands along for the wild ride), a demographic that's caused the series to be dubbed as "mommy porn."
For those out of the naughty loop: The books are based around a virgin who embarks on new sexual conquests — specifically those that fall into the BDSM range — with an older lover who puts the pleasure in pain. But enough about the books; the show — not actually affiliated with James in any way — is a whole 'nother story.
The idea for Spank! was conceived by Michael Mills of Mills Entertainment after noticing the popularity of Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience, a spoof on the Harry Potter series. Mills approached Jim Millan — creative director of Canadian sketch comedy troupe Kids in the Hall, Crowes Theatre, Mythbusters Live, a one-man show with Larry King and numerous other productions staged across the world — with the idea and he jumped on board.
"As soon as I got to the part where a 21-year-old virgin falls in love with a perfect-looking billionaire, I thought, 'Yeah, I could do a comedy like this,'" says Millan. He assembled a group of comedians and improvisers, some of whom came from a Second City background, to assist him in the writing process.
Comprised of a three-person cast, the show's satire is mixed with musical parodies and a smidge of interactive audience participation. "It's not about trying to pin this into a Broadway show in any way," says Millan. "It's a comedy show and we use music and choreography to do a lot of funny, short scenes."
Millan's description of the show as being set in a parallel universe to the book is dead on. In the show, you'll meet a ditsy and very horny middle-aged woman by the name of E.B. Janet (Suzanne Sole), who is attempting to pen an erotic novel with a voyeuristic mind-set and a bottle of wine by her side.
During the course of her writing, the characters — Hugh Hanson (Gabe Bowling) and Tasha Woode (Danielle Trzcinski) — come to life, even to the point of taking on personas of their own which stop Janet from taking things a bit too far (i.e., an outrageous scene that will make you giggle the next time you brush your teeth or swish around some mouthwash).
"It's an original creation. The characters' names are different and the situations are similar, but different. It's in our own style, so it's not a direct copy or version of the book and, of course, we checked with lawyers to make sure we were in the right place," says Millan.
Performances run at approximately 90 minutes with one intermission, during which time is the perfect opportunity to venture over to the bar (offering a specialty cocktail inspired by the show), or to the lobby and bathrooms to hear enthusiastic broads chattering full speed about the show.
"My cheeks hurt," I heard one woman say. She quickly elaborated, "The upper ones, you know, on my face." Her friends, whose minds may or may not have been on her buttocks, laughed — and so did I, realizing that my own cheeks were a little sore, too. Laughter comes hardcore in Spank!, so be prepared. The show is gushing with humorous sexual content, shows some undies (but no full nudity), and has enough innuendo to satisfy the mind until the next bestselling fiction series hits the market.
"If we ever go to England, I'd be excited to invite James and see what her sense of humor is like," says Millan.
$38.50 and up. Feb. 7-8, 7:30 p.m.; Feb. 9, 3 p.m. & 7:30 p.m. McGlohon Theater, 345 N. College St. 704-372-1000. www.blumenthalarts.org.