On April 2-6, Broadway Series South will present eight performances of Act 5 Entertainment’s national tour of the original R-rated parody 50 Shades! The Musical, which will titillate and tickle Triangle theatergoers, according to Albert Samuels, who is a writer, a producer, and the director of this uproarious satire of the ultra-kinky 2011 British BDSM novel Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James (born Erika Mitchell in London in 1963). That’s “BDSM” as in bondage and discipline and sadism and masochism — and dominance and submission.
Broadway Series South says, Fifty Shades of Grey is the first book in a trilogy that has sold more than 70 million books around the world. Fifty Shades of Grey is also the subject of an upcoming Universal Pictures film.
According to Broadway Series South: “50 Shades! The Musical opens with a ladies book club deciding to read Fifty Shades of Grey. Through their interpretation of the novel, the audience is lead on a hilarious roller-coaster ride of this unlikely bestseller. The show is full of dance numbers, 11 original songs, and a live band backing the performance. Original songs include ‘They Get Nasty’; ‘I Don’t Make Love, I F#*!’; and ‘There’s a Hole Inside of Me.”
“In 50 Shades! The Musical, we are making fun of the sexual content of the book,” reports Al Samuels. “But we have a decent amount of skin in our show, and the audience should expect to see that.”
Samuels, who co-wrote the show with Amanda Davis, Ashley Ward, and Emily Dorezas, adds, “I’m a writer for TV and stage and film, but I am an actor as well.” (In fact, he is a founding member of the Chicago-based improv group Baby Wants Candy, whose alumnae include Rachel Dratch and Aidy Bryant of “Saturday Night Live” fame.)
Al Samuels says Baby Wants Candy’s specialty is improvising 60-minute parody musicals. He adds, “We have a huge love of musicals, and a huge love of pop culture…. I got approached by a producer who asked if I would like to produce a parody version of Fifty Shades of Grey…. Before The Book of Mormon became known and popular, [50 Shades!] would have created the same sort of sensation.”
After 50 Shades! The Musical debuted at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, it returned to Chicago for more fine-tuning, and then had its New York premiere in January 2013 before embarking on the current national tour.
Although not technically a Baby Wants Candy production, a lot of people from that group are involved — onstage and backstage — in 50 Shades!, notes Al Samuels.
Even though other parodies of Fifty Shades of Grey are currently touring the country, Samuels claims, “We were the first one out, and we strove to make the show like a real musical. I think the other shows are sketch-comedy acts. But we made [50 Shades!] a two-act musical with a storyline….
“We created a musical around the book…,” explains Samuels. “Our show contains all original music, and I think it is just more sophisticated. It’s a bigger show, and I think it’s funnier.”
Al Samuels says, “The plot of [50 Shades! The Musical ] is the simplest, oldest story in the book. It’s girl-meets-boy, and they’re from different sides of the tracks. What is really great about this story — and what makes for a great show — is that it is unlike West Side Story or Romeo and Juliet, it is not a tragedy. Instead, in Fifty Shades of Grey, there is a steamy world of sex and misunderstandings between the virginal Anastasia ‘Ana’ Steele (played by Amber Petty) and the billionaire, bondage-loving Christian Grey (portrayed by Chris Grace) ….
“Of course, just like in Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story, there are pressures to pull Christian and Ana apart; there are pressures to push them together; there are romantic rivals …. There’s what Ana calls Christian’s ‘Red Room of Pain,’ where he wants to dominate her; and there are other parts of the book that make it very spoofable and also endear readers to the story,” claims Al Samuels. “They include little things like the fact that Christian is so hilariously anachronistic and Ana is at times so ridiculously virginal that there is room for great comedy. But this [quirky] love story also makes for a great musical.”
In addition to Amber Petty as Ana and Chris Grace as Christian, the cast also includes Nick Semar as Jose, Jessica Kemock as Carol, Spencer Rose as Pam, and Emily Eden as Bev and Katherine — plus three sexy dancers: Matt Nolan, Victor Sho, and Caroline Reade. (Nolan also plays Christian Grey’s brother, Elliot.)
Besides writer-director-producer Al Samuels, writers Amanda Davis and Ashley Ward, and writer-producer Emily Dorezas, the show’s creative team includes producer Marshall Cordell, assistant director Rob Lindley, choreographer Joanna Greer, associate choreographer Brad Landers, and musical director Jody Shelton. 50 Shades! The Musical features music and lyrics by Jody Shelton and Dan Wessels; and the show’s band includes Shelton, Al Veteri, and Johnny Pisano.
“I was the one who decided whether something would go into the show,” say Al Samuels. Counting the songwriting duo of Jody Shelton and Dan Wessels, he adds, “We had three men and three women writers. Some of us hadn’t read the book, and we wanted the musical to be appealing and understandable to someone who hadn’t read the book.”
Al Samuels says, “We didn’t just want to make fun of the book. That would have been too easy…. We make fun of the goofy parts of the book, and we show as much skin as we can onstage. But at the same time, we want to celebrate the love story — we want to celebrate this girl’s sexual awakening. This book has already opened a lot of people’s eyes to this world of being satisfied, both in the bedroom and outside of the bedroom, and in their [romantic] relationships….
“In the end,” Samuels says, “we really want our audiences to care what happens to Ana and Christian. It’s great if you have read the book; but at the same time, [50 Shades! The Musical] is going to be really, really enjoyable for people who haven’t read the book, because it makes fun of the book and the phenomenon around it. One of the best compliments that we’ve gotten so far came from a CNN reporter who was very familiar with the book. she said it was one of the funniest things she’s ever seen; and she was crying with laughter and so was her co-worker, who hadn’t read the book.”
Al Samuels cautions parents that 50 Shades! The Musical is for mature audiences, aged 17 and over. “They are not going to see anything,” he says, “but there is strong language, a la The Book of Mormon and the “South Park” movie [i.e., South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut] ….
“In our show,” claims Al Samuels, “anything really does go. People will see things that they have never seen on stage.”
He adds, “We’re so excited to come to Raleigh. This is the kickoff of our [more than 30-city] tour, and we can’t think of a better place than Raleigh to kick it off.”
SECOND OPINION: March 28th Raleigh, NC News & Observer preview by Andrew Branch: http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/03/28/2783861/50-shades-the-musical-parodies.html.
Broadway Series South presents 50 SHADES! THE MUSICAL at 7:30 p.m. April 2 and 3 and 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. April 4-6 in the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.
TICKETS: $39.10-$57.30 (including fees).
Duke Energy Center Box Office: 919-996-8700 or firstname.lastname@example.org (information only).
Ticketmaster: 800-745-3000 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115203/1794310.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919-857-4565, email@example.com, or http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/broadway-series-south/group-sales.
VIDEO PREVIEW: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8H_omK7iqvQ.
50 Shades! The Musical: http://50shadesmusical.com/ (official website), https://www.facebook.com/50ShadesTheMusical (Facebook page), and https://twitter.com/musical50shades (Twitter page).
Act 5 Entertainment: http://www.act5ent.com/ (official website).
Albert Samuels (writer, producer, director): http://www.gsb.stanford.edu/mastery/coaches/samuels.html (Stanford University Graduate School of Business bio).
Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Review, a FREE weekly e-mail arts newsletter. This preview is reprinted with permission from Triangle Review.
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