'Spank! The Fifty Shades Musical Parody': Chippendales meets Second City

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PITTSFIELD -- What's so funny about a 21-year-old klutzy virgin woman and a 27-year-old billionaire who's into bondage falling in love? Everything.

That's the premise of "Spank!" a new musical parody of the widely successful "50 Shades of Grey" trilogy that hits Berkshire Theatre Group's Colonial Theatre this Thursday through Saturday.

Described as "part Chippendales, part Second City," the sketch-comedy musical was conceived by Jim Millan, the director for "Kids in the Hall."

Colin Munch, one of the show's eight writers and assistant director for the production, said that although "Spank!" focuses mostly on "50 Shades of Grey," which chronicles the main characters' love story, the show is an homage to the entire series.

The series' three novels have had mixed reviews with some critics saying the series is too risqué or scandalous. Nevertheless, collectively, the books have set the record as the fastest-selling paperbacks of all time with sales of more than 65 million copies.

"It was so great to work on something so well loved with such floral and romantic language," Munch said in an interview with The Berkshire Eagle. "The writing is so beautiful and deep in metaphor it was a real joy to sink our teeth into. We didn't want to make fun of the fans of the series but rather poke fun at the holes in reality within the story. Something funny, but respectful to our audience."

In "50 Shades of Grey," British author E.L. James unravels the romantic relationship between a college graduate, Anastasia Steele, and a young businessman, Christian Grey, and how he exposes her to various bondage, dominance, sadism and masochism.

The story takes place in Seattle, Wash., where Steele agrees to fill in for her friend and roommate, Kate Kavanagh, a reporter for their college newspaper, at a scheduled interview with Grey.

In the parody, the Grey counterpart, a wealthy young billionaire named Hugh Hanson, happens to fall in love with the young Tasha Woode, the Steele counterpart, during the interview.

"He's Batman, but instead of fighting crime he's into BDSM," Munch said of both Hanson and Grey. "Those people simply don't exist in reality."

To capture Hanson's bravado, Jon Blair and Ian McIntyre, part of the show's writing team, wrote their male lead a bawdy ballad set to the tune of Enrique Iglesias' "Hero."

With plenty of sexuality to draw from the books, the comedy duo from Canada's "Sunday Night Live" gave the script the "just the right amount of musical smut," Munch said.

As the group of writers got together roughly a year and a half ago, near the height of ‘50 Shades of Grey's" popularity, Munch said the script came together within a few days as it appeared everyone was on the same page about writing satirical sexuality.

"I hadn't ever really been a part of a script that came together so quickly," he said.

Munch said the show isn't associated with, or authorized by E.L. James or Vintage Press, but he hopes she would find it funny and respectful to her work.

Amanda Barker, who plays E.B. Janet, a narrator version of James, said when she first saw the material, it was the show's ability to be different each night that drew her in.

"The whole show is really conceived as a sketch show with improv, physical comedy and songs woven together with hits from the first book," she said. "As the narrator I get to play with the characters and the audience."

Barker said Alice Moran, who plays Woode, and Patrick Whalen, who plays Hanson, are a constant joy to work with and willing to give in to the comedic moment.

Barker, who was born in Hanover, Mass., said although the show has hundreds of jabs and jests that will appeal to the books' fans, there are still plenty of jokes for those who haven't read the books.

"There's a fun and looseness (in) the show," Barker said. "Playing with the crowd, we can tweak (the material), especially if we've gotten to know the audience ahead of time."

If you go ...

What: "Spank! The Fifty Shades Musical Parody"

When: 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday

Where: Colonial Theatre, 111 South St., Pittsfield

Tickets: $47.50-27.50

How: (413) 997-4444; www.BerkshireTheatreGroup.orgor in person at the box office

To reach Josh Stilts:
jstilts@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6243
On Twitter: @JoshStilts



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