First Posted: 2/10/2015
WILKES-BARRE — Numbers don’t lie. U.K.’s “The Telegraph” recently reported data to support the book series from their native E.L. James was taking over the world.
The report shared that “Fifty Shades of Grey” was the first e-book to be downloaded more than 1 million times, that in the first week of being published, 20 books were sold every second and that following the publication of the first book in 2011, sex-toy injuries in the United States increased by 40 percent.
It’s even the number one No. 1 movie at the box-office right now.
“Fifty Shades” is on top — and it’s about to show Wilkes-Barre who’s boss when the traveling musical production of “Spank! The Fifty Shades Parody” dominates the stage at 7:30 p.m. on March 6 at the F.M. Kirby Center of the Performing Arts.
According to Jim Millan, writer and director of “Spank!,” the show uses comedy to help audiences look at something well established in a fresh way; interpreting to the extreme, unrealistic moments from the pages of the E.L. James trilogy, when coming to life on stage.
“It’s very hard to believe that anybody at the age of 28 who looks like a windsurfer model, who can pilot his own planes, who was an orphan, can rise to the top. It’s funny to embellish that character. At the same time, like many sorts of fairy-tale stories, it is the story of a handsome man who has secrets and problems and needs the love of a good woman who can help him. It’s still funnily enough a princess story, except this princess gets swept off her feet and put into handcuffs,” Millan said.
The show features only three actors: Andrea Muller as Tasha Wood (based on Anastasia Steele), Ken Allen Neely as Hugh Hanson (based on Christian Grey) and Anne Marie Scheffler as E.B. Janet (loosely based on E.L. James, author of “Fifty Shades of Grey”).
“What we have that the movie and book doesn’t have is the author’s story,” Scheffler said of “Spank!”
The parody starts as Scheffler’s character is home alone for the weekend.
“My character is a bored housewife with probably a really nice, normal marriage and she is feeling a little sexually frustrated, so her husband and kids leave for the weekend to Disney World and she stays home to write a sex-fantasy book,” Scheffler said.
As a mother in real life, Scheffler said she can relate to her character, knowing that women and mother’s don’t typically have enough free time to explore sexual fantasies.
“I think that we allow parts of society to be very sexy. Young people. The porn industry. Strippers. Nobody is expecting the housewife to be sexy. That’s why I think audiences love this show. We celebrate the woman who is a normal mom getting to be in charge of her own sexual fantasy and own it. It’s really good for women. They get such a sense of freedom to depart from the norm and feel sexy again,” Scheffler said.
That sense of sexual freedom older women have been getting from “Fifty Shades” — and continue to get with “Spank!” — is a feeling usually reserved for younger women Muller said.
“When I read certain sexually explicit parts of the book, I laughed and I was like, ‘Yeah, right.’ It’s violent. It’s spanking. Asphyxiation. It’s pure S&M,” she said. “I think older women took it a lot more seriously because the older women that read the book don’t have an active sex life. The writer in the play talks about how she is so bored of her stable married life. If you’re not married yet, you can try all types of things and date around. A lot of people my age have more sexual freedom.”
Since the sexual endeavors in the book were so outrageous – often laughable — it was easy to poke fun at “Fifty Shades of Grey”, Muller said.
One element of humor is found in the music throughout the show.
“We parody a lot of popular songs from pop culture and musical theater,” Muller said.
Her favorite is the parody of Adele’s “Someone Like You,” which is changed to “Someone Like Hugh” she said.
“Some of the lyrics we change around in the songs we parody are pretty ridiculous. There are some songs where the audience will listen to how we changed the words and just explode with laughter,” Muller said.
Despite being a parody, Muller insisted fans of the book have no reason to question the sex appeal of the show.
“It’s funny, but it’s still sexy,” said Muller, who shared that one sex scene is turned into a burlesque show.
“The Christian Grey character does this burlesque number to show how ridiculous the sexual fantasies are. It’s really sexy and the women love it,” Muller said.
Meanwhile, Ken Allen Neely noticed women aren’t the only ones enjoying the show.
“A couple of times I’ve seen a group of guys coming to the show. At first I thought, ‘That’s weird,” but if you think about it, they’re sitting in an audience of a thousand horny women. What better way to meet a woman,” Neely said.
Whether you’re a horny woman or a guy looking for a horny woman, the show keeps it no secret that it is a load of raunchy humor.
“It’s very ‘Saturday Night Live,’” Neely said.
After each performance, the cast holds a free meet-and-greet with the audience.
Scheffler said it’s not uncommon for her to meet a woman wearing the same clothes as her; a sign she said assures her that she is accurately portraying the average mom.
Neely said he will often meet guys who go out of their way to tell him how funny they found the show to be.
Muller said she watches as women line-up to admire their “Christian Grey.” After all, what’s a “Fifty Shades” parody without a little self-indulged sexual fantasy.