Last night we hit the St. Lawrence Centre to check out 50 SHADES! THE MUSICAL – THE ORIGINAL PARODY for what was, as expected, far from your typical musical. Inspired, of course, by the best-selling and ever-so-guiltily pleasurable 50 Shades of Grey novel, the parody explores both the characters and the women who love the book as it opens with a group of bored housewives (all hilariously played by charismatic young actresses) deciding to read Fifty Shades of Grey for their book club. Through their interpretation of the novel, the audience is taken on 69-minute rollercoaster of pure, raunchy, unadulterated fun. The play has received rave reviews (in everything from Time Magazine to Perez Hilton, who called the play HIGHlariously Hawt!) and been met with sold-out audiences in Chicago and New York.
Here is why we think you will like it…
It is raunchy, yet feel good (no pun intended) theatre
Fisting, tea-bagging, bondage, a shot of bodily fluids to the face and dirty, toy-filled sex – no topic is off-limits in 50 SHADES (except for maybe love-making). This, of course, makes it easier to drag your culturally challenged, theatre-hating guy to than “Shakespeare in the Park” (though we love that too). Adding to the shock value is no shortage of spanking-filled stimulated sex scenes and musical numbers like “There’s a Hole Inside of Me,” where Anastasia Steele (played by Eileen Patterson) describes her desire for her “hole to be filled” and for someone to “explore her cave,” and dirtily boundary-pushing lyrics sung by Christian Grey (Jack Boice), like “I will eat your p*$$y like I do poutine,” accompanied by over-the-top mouth and tongue motions that really don’t require an explanation. What makes this all forgivable, permissible and actually funny is the happy, bubblegum music, dancing and acting that cradles such raunchy references and activity.
It is LOL funny
You will laugh out loud at the hilariously boundary-pushing and over-the-top ridiculous of the production – from the shocking lyrics to the well-played physical comedy, like in what Patterson says the cast lovingly refers to as “the muff diving scene.” Christian Grey himself is a far cry from a Calvin Klein underwear model, with his messy red hair and beard (disclaimer: nothing against redheads) and beer belly protruding from a red skintight spandex onesie. This juxtaposes the inevitable eye-candy offered by fit and scantily fit dancers on stage. You can’t help but laugh at the often awkward audience interaction as well, like when Christian Grey individually points to audience members during his “I Don’t Make Love,” number, telling them that he would f*ck them (and their best friend).
The cast does not disappoint
The talent of the cast was undeniable. Each comes armed with an impressive list of theatre credits and training. This is reflected in everything from the strong vocals to the ability to think on their feet, as some of the production is improvised, especially the audience interaction. A tambourine-filled ensemble number toward the end was a highlight and served as a reminder of the talent of the cast, which was, admittedly, at times overshadowed by the shock value of what they said and did.
It highlights the power of simplicity in theatre
In everything from indie blackbox theatres to Canadian Stage productions, we have never seen a set so minimal as 50 SHADES. There was barely anything on stage for the duration of the play, aside from a few chairs, a bed (obviously) and, of course, the actors and a band. Similarly, the costumes were kept simple. Though we may have liked more visual stimulation (perhaps some sexy aerial moves a la Pink at the Grammys), at least there was little to distract from the actual performance and showed that it does not require thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of set design for an impactful musical.
It makes for a good date night
If this play doesn’t break any lingering ice on a second or third date, we don’t know what will. Yes, the audience was estrogen-filled, but that does not mean that there is nothing in it for the guys. No foul word is off limits, no sex act is left untouched upon, and imaginations will run wild. Even if you’ve been with your significant other for years, the play inevitably forces the audience to question their own sexual patterns and how vanilla (or not) they may be… and may even inspire a more exciting time in bed post-show.
It leaves you with something to think and talk about
It isn’t the deepest production that you will ever see and is admittedly jam-packed with shamelessly mindless and gratuitous humour. But there are some deeper takeaways. For example, Patterson tells us that it is also about being comfortable with yourself and your sexuality, and that it also redefines what it means to be sexy. “It is about taking ownership of your body, coming into your self and finding your own sexy, whatever that is,” she says. It will also inevitably make you question whether sex is still tied to emotion or if it is more of a recreational sport, and serves as a reminder that sometimes (no matter how hard you try to resist) emotions can get in the way. Also discussed post-show over wine with a girlfriend were issues of body image and control issues in relationships. In general, it serves as a reminder that sex can be funny, and as Tiffany Dissette (who plays one of the bored housewives) tells us, “People open their eyes and minds after seeing it and appreciate the humour of it.”
But hey, don’t listen to us. Check out the production for yourself (but think twice before inviting your parents or the in-laws); 50 SHADES runs at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, Bluma Appel Theatre, April 1- 13, 2014 (Toronto). And no, you don’t have to have read the book to appreciate it!
#LYNL | (Live Your Notable Life)