'Fifty Shades' musical is hornball heaven
This theater publicity image released by David Gersten & Associates shows Matthew Brian Bagley, left, and Laurie Elizabeth Gardner during a performance of "Cuff Me: The Fifty Shades of Grey (Unauthorized) Musical Parody," in New York. (AP Photo/David Gersten & Associates, Carol Rosegg)
NEW YORK (AP) — Shuffle under some Star of David stained glass windows and a rack of prayer shawls in a corner of the off-Broadway Actors Temple Theatre for this high-volume command at the start of its latest show:
"Strap in! Strap on! And if it vibrates, put it between your legs!"
There may not be enough exclamation points — or groans, depending on your fan status — for "Cuff Me: The Fifty Shades of Grey (Unauthorized) Musical Parody," one of a few stage spoofs to take on the naughty books in song, and the first to hit New York.
The rough-sex romp, featuring a half-wit Anastasia Steele and a flyswatter-lovin' Christian Grey (yes, I said flyswatter) is aimed squarely at the Zumba set. There's actual Zumba in it, along with plenty of digs about the bad writing and bizarre plot twists of "Fifty" writer E L James.
Yet on the first night of previews last week, "Cuff Me" managed to fill the 170-seat theater that doubles as a synagogue with a long history of tending to the spiritual needs of famous, funny Jews from Henny Youngman to the Three Stooges.
Producer Tim Flaherty has a history of keeping an eye out for his higher power, having already put on the one-nun comedy "Late Nite Catechism" in the basement of a Lutheran church. "For me, it's almost like circling back. I'm always looking for god's help," he said.
The show, written by three improv dudes from Bible Belt Virginia, relies heavily on parody lyrics set to predictable pop songs with "Fifty"-esque titles: Rihanna's "S&M," Madonna's "Like a Virgin," Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe," Britney Spears' "... One More Time," the Divinyls' "I Touch Myself."
Oh, and there's a bit of "If I Were a Rich Man" from "Fiddler on the Roof," sung by one Willy Blowman, a swish lawyer in a flashy yellow suit. He has the hots for Christian as he goes over the dominant/submissive sex contract the billionaire presents to this developmentally challenged Ana.
Bejeweled flyswatter? Fay lawyer? Doing certain unmentionable things with mayonnaise? A pink flamingo lawn ornament among Grey's sex toys? "Fifty" purists beware, for this mommy porn take on your favorite kinky love story makes plenty of filthy fun at the craze you whipped up.
The show, with a four-person cast, goes like this: Two middle-aged ladies are in a nail salon. One has never heard of "Fifty Shades" so the other fills her in as the two-male, two-female crew takes on key scenes from the first book, flipping on bad wigs, acting out Ana's excitable inner goddess and sex-prancing to songs with unprintable words.
Ana stumbles into Grey's office, and there's a visit to Grey's red room of pain (on opening night of previews the lights were broken, so it was more of a purple).
Asked about the act of cashing in on the "Fifty" phenom, Flaherty and writers Brad McMurran, Jeremiah Albers and Sean Devereux said hells, yeah. The erotic trilogy continues to sell, topping 70 million copies worldwide, and a movie yet to announce a cast is planned.
McMurran and Devereux are with The Pushers, an improv and sketch group from the Norfolk, Va., area. Albers, a former Pusher, was recruited for "Cuff Me" duty after Flaherty thought it up.
"You're trying to basically take advantage of what the market place is interested in. So, I mean, is that cashing in? We can do lots of shows that no one wants to come see, but I don't see the point in that," Flaherty deadpanned. "It's not exactly like we're buying mansions out in the Hamptons."