50 SHADES! THE MUSICAL
Originally produced by Baby Wants Candy
Tour produced by Arts 5 Entertainment, LLC
AT&T Performing Arts Center
ANDREW ASNES – Executive Producer
MARSHALL CORDELL – Producer
AL SAMUELS – Director, Producer, Head Writer, Lyrics
DANIEL REITZ – Music Director
EMILY DOREZAS – Producer, Writer, Touring Director
AMANDA BLAKE DAVIS – Writer, Lyrics, Music
JODY SHELTON – Writer, Lyrics, Music
ASHLEY WARD – Writer, Lyrics, Music
DAN WESSELS – Writer, Lyrics, Music
ROB LINDLEY – Associate Director
JOANNA GREER – Choreographer
BRAD LANDERS – Associate Choreographer
CAST (as referenced from official website)
Eileen Patterson as Anastasia Steele
Jack Boice as Christian Grey
Alexis Field as Book Club Lady
Sheila O’Connor as Book Club Lady
Tiffany Dissette as Book Club Lady
Nick Semar as Jose Rodriguez
BJ Gruber as Christian Grey’s Brother/F*** Buddy Date
Caroline Reade as an “Inner Goddess Dancer”
Chris Sams as an “Inner Goddess Dancer”
50 SHADES! THE MUSICAL50 SHADES! THE MUSICAL50 SHADES! THE MUSICAL50 SHADES! THE MUSICAL
Reviewed by Richard Blake
50 Shades! is the first “Musical Marital Aide” in theatre history that will leave you blushing, rolling in the aisles and applauding furiously all evening!
The musical is a hilarious parody of the “Fifty Shades of Grey” book phenomenon (although, as posted on the Official Website, “50 Shades! The Musical is not associated with, endorsed or authorized by E.L. James or Vintage Books”). This sexy, hysterical musical romp is a laugh out loud night of fun that you won’t want to miss!
A resounding hit in Chicago, New York, and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, 50 Shades! The Musical opens with a ladies book club deciding to read ”Fifty Shades of Grey”. Through the club’s interpretation of the novel, the audience is led on an uproarious roller coaster ride of this unlikely bestseller. The show is full of dance numbers and original songs delivered by an outrageous cast with a live, on stage band.
Full disclosure: I arrived about three minutes after curtain due to a massive accident (of course) on Hwy. 75 and did not see the immediate opening. I did, however, speak to the ATTPAC liaison at intermission to discuss what I missed. I apologize for that inconvenience to the center, producers and cast. And oh, yes folks, I sat in the back of the house until intermission like a good theatre patron.
OK, now on to the review...which is going to be difficult to write without using any sexual terminology but I’ll try my best. The Official Website states, “The Musical tells a sexy, hilarious story chockfull of wrestling singlet’s, handcuffs, and helicopters with silly names. Come see a show full of BDSM (Best Damn Songs and Music. It definitely delivers all that and much, much, MUCH more.
This is a musical parody, so don’t expect Othello but the script stands just as strong with its great writing, jokes, and yes even character arcs throughout. There is a team of writers for this show and it is very apparent they work extraordinarily well together. Members of the creative team are seasoned veterans of the acclaimed “Second City in Chicago”, so you can imagine the hilariousness that ensues in the show. I couldn’t tell what was scripted or was pure improv at points, which is just one example of the script’s mastery. It’s a simple story full of twists, turns and a tremendous amount of sexual innuendo of course, that blends wonderfully with the music and takes you on one hell of a ride!
As for the music...well, I guarantee you will never hear so many outrageous words being sung in such beautiful orchestrations in any other musical score! The score is lovely, funny, exciting and truly shocking at times, all while being played live on stage by a wonderful three-piece band and supported by some highly talented vocalists. The music is woven intricately into the dialogue, not just thrown in for laughs, although every song does make you laugh out loud. I don’t’ know how to really explain it, but it’s like seeing a live comedy troupe thrust into a Broadway musical with audience participation, and even that doesn’t quite describe the show. The combination with the music is what makes this new musical a success, not by looking for a niche to fit into but by making one and presenting it superbly; of course with more than a few whips and handcuffs along the way. Some of my personal favorite songs were “There Was a Hole Inside of Me”, “I Don't Make Love, I F***” and the hilariously raucous “Red Room”.
The set and lighting are very simple. The set consists of only a bed (of course), a side table, ottoman and a chair located on a completely bare stage. It sounds too simple, but it is perfect for this show. Each piece is used in many different ways and the minimalist set and lighting allow the audience to completely focus on the script, score and amazing talent presenting it. Trust me, I’ll never look at a simple wooden chair the same again ... and neither will you!
The cast in the show is remarkable and without their comedic timing, deliveries, vocals and acting chops it would fall flat and be nothing but a trashy two hour skit. This well-oiled ensemble takes you on a musical journey like none I’ve seen, and in some cases against your will; as Christian exclaims, “You’ll like it, if you love me...do you understand?”
Eileen Patterson as Anastasia Steele plays the neer-do-well, more than slightly off, innocent girl who at one point screams “Bondage is so freeing!” so perfectly you simply fall in love with her from the moment she’s walks on stage. Her vocals are splendid and her interactions in some of the most outrageous scenes I’ve seen on stage are amazing. For example, let me see how I can put this, at one point she is on the bed with Christian in an uproarious scene with her legs spread wide apart and he’s... ummm... showing her his skills in her first “oral engagement”. Ms. Patterson never breaks character, her facial expressions are hilarious and everyone in the theatre was roaring with laughter. Her professionalism and talent shine in every moment of the performance.
Christian Grey, played by Jack Boice, is stunning in this role. He’s not quite what you would expect from the novel but that’s the POINT of it all and Mr. Boice creates a character you will truly be shocked by yet still fall in love with. Vocally he’s tremendous, belting out high notes, yet lulls you into submission (pun intended) with his lovely baritone solos. His comedic timing is off the charts, only matched with his physical antics on stage. Let’s just say my retinas are still burning from the sight of a certain red singlet and they’ll never be the same!
Alexis Field, Sheila O’Connor and Tiffany Dissette as the Ladies of the Book Club are rip-roaringly talented in the roles. They take you on a journey, from their perspective, of the erotic novel and the action plays out live (sort of) in front of them. These women are vocally precise, powerful and perfectly matched. From solos to duets and trio work, these magnificent women entertain throughout the show and will take you on a unique journey in their own very special way. They also play other incidental characters in the show and with each role, they’re splendid.
BJ Gruber, playing Christian Grey’s Brother and…well... a F*** Buddy to one of the ladies is perfect in the show. Line deliveries, vocals and his physical comedy can’t be matched. He’s a stunningly handsome man, which might lead you to believe he’s the one in the novel, and plays every moment on stage with pure talent. In one scene he’s with a lady from the book club in the audience (yes IN the audience). She’s on a cell phone talking and well... he’s furiously “helping her” from behind! All of this within about a foot from a couple that were literally laughing so hard they were falling off their chairs. At one point during his “help” Mr. Gruber high-fived the male of the patron couple who returned the favor and the audience roared with laughter and thunderous applause!! That is the true sign of comedic talent, especially when dealing with such taboo content.
Jose Rodriguez, played by Nick Semar, is a comedic genius only matched by his vocal ability. Playing the over-the-top Latino whose chest hair and dancing skills are his passion; Mr. Semar steals the show in his scenes. You never know what hilarious facial expressions will come from him, but I’m sure you can look at the photos afterwards as he’s forever taking pictures of himself (and his conquest) live on stage. You will be thoroughly entertained by this professional throughout the entire performance.
Playing some of “Anna’s Inner Goddesses” and ensemble dancers are Caroline Reade and Chris Sams. These two are wonderful dancers, vocalists and comedic actors all at the same time. They play a myriad of roles in the show and every moment they are priceless on stage. They go from stunning ballet sequences to “moving props” in an instant and are a perfect team that accentuates the production. I’ve never seen such a “ballet of BDSM gear” quite like these two present, it was hilarious!
There’s a rocking band on stage with the cast that truly impresses you. They follow the singers without flaw, lower the volume for perfect underscoring and never once overpower the show. The moments when they do get to really rock out, they do it with flair and passion only true rockers implore. I wish I could name them specifically but there was no playbill for the show and they really DO deserve the kudos.
The show is for mature audiences, obviously, but at no time is it ever presented like pornography or just raunchy for the laughs. All the material, as adult in nature as it is, never offends or insults the audience. In fact, I watched and listened at intermission to see if anyone was offended or left...not one person! Actually, everyone was still laughing, smiling, and talking about the show. Even at the souvenir table, which proudly displayed the cast album alongside pink furry handcuffs, couples’ bondage equipment and their best seller, the lipstick vibrator, people of all ages and genders were laughing and smiling. That’s a sign of a true musical masterpiece in any show... especially one that deals with such “taboo” subject matter as 50 Shades! The Musical.
Get your tickets now as the show is only in Dallas for a few days more. Grab your significant other, groups of friends or ANYBODY to catch this hilarious new musical while you can. As Christian announces at the beginning of the second act, “Ladies and uncomfortable Gentleman, the show will begin soon” and what an amazing show it is!