If you've read Fifty Shades of Grey and think it's about as thought-provoking as the parody cookbook Fifty Shades of Chicken, then you're sure to laugh — intentionally — at Spank! The Fifty Shades Parody, which opens at the Grove of Anaheim, followed by Club Nokia, just before Valentine's Day, on Feb. 11.
The erotic trilogy's worldwide appeal started less than two years ago and has already spawned countless parody books, not to mention celebs on TV and YouTube reading the novel's steamiest passages for comic relief. (Gilbert Gottfried reading this nugget comes to mind: “His hands reach around and touch my breasts and my nipples pucker at his touch.”) It was only a matter of time before a stage spoof popped up, bringing to life the not-so-sophisticated words of housewife-turned-smut-peddler-disguised-as-author E.L. James.
“Our show takes place in a parallel world,” says head writer and director Jim Millan, a Toronto native whose credits include directing The Kids in the Hall on stage. The touring show has traveled as far as Australia and plans for a Vegas residency are in the works. “It's not a recreation of the book. It's a parody and things similar to the book. It allows us to open up the show in a fun way. Our characters have different themes and different plot points, but there are a lot of similarities that anyone would recognize.”
The cast of three actors — all of whom have Second City backgrounds — follows the original story of a vacuous college student (Alice Moran), who falls under the spell of a young, rich and domineering corporate tycoon (Patrick Whalen). He prefers rough sex over, you know, eye contact and feelings, and convinces his eager beaver to enter into a BDSM contract. (Flogging, yes. Fisting, no.) Anne Marie Scheffler plays the author and narrator, as well as some of the supporting characters.
“She's the framing device,” says Millan. “She takes us into her world of trying to write an erotic novel. That way on stage you get to see a lot of scenes that didn't make it into the book — her ideas and creations. But we also get to skip to the good parts.”
A book that at best reads like a raunchy teen romance novel is obviously ripe for skewering. “It's certainly easy to parody. But I don't think the author herself takes the book that seriously. She wrote it as fan fiction. What I do like about the popularity of the book is that it says that people should be brave and explore their fantasies and have fun.”
While the show sticks to the novel's basics, it takes liberties with certain details. For example, in the book, the couple does nothing but have sex, lots and lots of sex. One scene takes place in a bathroom and involves menstrual blood and a tampon. “One of our scenes also takes place in a bathroom, ” says Millan. “But it involves a toothbrush and oral hygiene.” And instead of fancy cars and helicopters, expect to see hang gliders and hovercrafts as props.
The play also includes songs with original lyrics set to popular show tunes. Though Millan doesn't want to give too much away, we're sure the cast will be singing about sore bottoms and stinging hands. And no musical would be complete without audience participation. In the book, our heroine is ordered to visit a gynecologist and go on birth control. So don't be surprised if you're called upon to play doctor and asked to give medical advice.