Get Your Kink On
Laughter dominates on stage in Fifty Shades musical parody
Gobbled up largely by ravenous women who enjoyed the Red Shoe Diaries but never heard of Story of O, or perhaps found Lady Chatterley’s Lover a little too literary, Fifty Shades of Grey shocked us with its best-selling success as much as its explicit sexual passages.
Initially self-published digitally by London T.V. executive E L James, the fan fiction sparked trilogy (the first volume was quickly followed by Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed ) has been teased as “Twilight for grown-ups.” Its not-so-serious treatment of BSDM (bondage/dominance & submission/sadomasochism) has seen more comparisons to Pretty Woman than Last Tango in Paris and has been criticized for its lackluster writing in addition to as a lack of realism.
In other words, this “provocative romance” was just asking for a parody.
Stopping at the F.M. Kirby Center for one show only on Feb. 2 in a three-cast sweep of the country, Spank! The Fifty Shades Parody is only one of many satires to seize on the pop culture phenomenon.
Written and directed by Jim Millan (The Kids in the Hall, The Marijuana-Logues) it premiered at City Stage in Springfield, Mass. in September. Although first targeted as a girls’ night out to women who read the book(s), Spank! is selling tickets to husbands and boyfriends, too.
Danielle Trzcinski joined the cast in October when demand for the show proved greater than producers could meet with one cast. Because there are only three characters in the show, Mills Entertainment can afford to book three casts simultaneously and is booking while the buzz is hot.
She plays Tasha Wood, the virginal young woman based on Fifty Shades’ naïve college student Anastasia Steele, we’ll see in the line-up at the Kirby Center next weekend. We spoke with the actress and comedienne just after the musical’s three-show sold out run in Pittsburgh. Trzcinski said the show is unique among theatrical opportunities as it allows its performers to sing, act, dance, do improv and be funny.
“And I get to be cute and sexy,” she laughed.
She shares the stage with author E.B. Janet (Easy Breezy Janet), a mom who decides to write an erotic fantasy while her child and husband are away. It is EBJ who creates both Tasha Woode and Hugh Hanson, the show’s Christian Grey symbol. Woode and Hanson interact not only with each other but also with the author as the show evolves.
“She just plays with us and sometimes she goes too far,” said Trzcinski. “At one point the characters protest, ‘Wait a minute, this is not hot’.”
Not that the show lacks heat. It’s been described as “SNL meets the Chippendales” for good reason. That’s right ladies, one of the highlights of Spank! is a Magic Mike male burlesque number.
“It sounds like we’re at a concert the way the women scream. They go nuts,” the actress said. “He strips down … to his underwear.”
OK, so there’s no nudity, but there are plenty of inside jokes. The show pokes fun at Tasha managing to earn a literature degree without a computer, for example. Allusions to fan fiction and Twilight references also abound. But you don’t need to read the book(s) to get 90 to 95 percent of the show’s jokes, Trzcinski said.
Like campy works with cult followings such as Valley of the Dolls or Rocky Horror, Spank! manages to simultaneously celebrate and poke fun of its source material. Let’s consider the source: if the excerpts we read are any indication, it wasn’t too much work to make it funny.
E L James avoidd using the usual anatomical labels for her characters’ genitals. The virginal Ana’s response to the first sight of her lover’s erect ‘member’ is “Holy cow!” and she murmurs incessantly about her “inner goddess.” Christian Grey is supposedly the son of a crack whore.
“It’s so funny we have to pause for laughs, which is actually a great problem to have.”
Yet for all the joking around, the end is surprisingly very sweet, the actress offered. “Tasha is very innocent and naïve as she is first created by EBJ. She doesn’t know anything about men or sex or double entrendres. She just doesn’t get it … as the show goes on she finds her voice and she starts to say what she really wants, and she realizes she actually wants to love Hugh Hanson.”
After the show, the cast holds a meet and greet with (bondage optional) photo opportunities for the audience. The line to meet Hanson (to be played by Gabe Bowling in Wilkes-Barre) is especially long. While a good number of the audience members haven’t read the book, others come dressed in t-shirts with quotes from Fifty Shades, handcuffs hanging from their wrists, or wearing silver ties.
The popularity of Fifty Shades makes for an especially thrilling stage experience, Trzcinski confirmed.
“The audience is there to have a good time and begins screaming as soon the lights come up. They don’t even know who we are and they already love it.”
The music does not boast an original score but rather pop parodies in the style of Weird Al. “Come with me to my room of sexy domination,” Hanson sings to the melody of “Pure Imagination” dressed in the guise of Willy Wonka. Later he sings, “I will be your master, baby” a la Enrique Iglesias’s “Hero.”
In addition to pop culture and current events references beyond the books, Spank! incorporates local references as it travels, name-dropping local sports heroes or neighboring suburbs. As soon as the cast arrives in the next town, they start interviewing local stage hands, ushers and hotel staff. Another secret of the show’s success is audience interaction. At one point, Tasha enters the crowd looking to talk to old boyfriends. Later, they seek out a doctor and ask for sexual advice. New answers every night help keep the show fresh, said Trzcinski.
“Most people do not want to be interviewed at all … but by Act Two people have drank a little more and are more willing to talk.”
And there’s always a Plan B.
“If the “doctor” won’t talk, we’ll say, ‘Let me talk to a nurse.’ I won’t push. I don’t want them not to have a good time.”
Although like the books, the show is a bit steamy at times, overall it is a parody so you are going to laugh, she advised.
Those moments where you might start to feel uncomfortable quickly turn into a joke.
“There’s this sexy scene, but then he’s got a toothbrush,” she laughed.
Visit spankshow.com for more information.