Review: 50 Shades! The Musical – The Original Parody (Marshall Cordell/Albert Samuels/Emily Dorezas)

50 Shades photograph - photo by Michael Brosilow (2)

Kinky, sexy kitsch get a rise out of the audience at 50 Shades! The Musical at Toronto’s St. Lawrence Centre

If you’ve noticed a haze of sexy steam rising up from the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts these past couple of nights, it’s probably thanks to the touring production of 50 Shades! The Musical that’s rolled into town.

A musical parody of the smutty bestseller Fifty Shades of Grey, the show follows a threesome of housewives in a book club who choose the E.L. James novel as their next read. Through a bevy of clever musical numbers and raunchy choreography, the story of the innocent and naive Ana, and her unorthodox sexual awakening at the hands of the elusive Christian Grey, unfolds on stage with much hilarity and a few unexpected turns.

I think it’s important to note that neither I or my date Brandon had previously read the Fifty Shades novels. My knowledge of the whole phenomenon is mostly from keeping tabs on pop culture news and, well, the fact that my mother read all three of them and might have told me a few key plot points.

While I’ll admit to not understanding a few moments in the show, both Brandon and I still found it very funny. Using the audience around me as a barometer, I’ll make a safe bet that if you’ve read the books, you’ll probably enjoy it more so. There were plenty of sections of the show that the ladies behind me roared at while Brandon and I only snickered.

The production doesn’t have any big-musical bells or whistles: it’s a simple set with a couch that doubles as a bed, a few extra props and a fantastic live three-piece band that sits stage right the whole time. The bells and whistles are the actors, who take the writing team’s clever and quick-paced lyrics, and completely run with them.

There were no weak links among the cast, though Jack Boice completely steals the show as the enigmatic Christian Grey. Without spoiling too much, let’s just say that he isn’t what you would expect for the romantic sex fiend lead, and he absolutely does deliver. His facial expressions, physical comedy and pure unabashed confidence on stage tie the whole show together, and he’s a pretty good singer, too.

Eileen Patterson as Ana has a crystal clear, beautiful voice that works well with the over-the-top cheese of her character’s naivete, and Nick Semar’s Jose wrangles plenty of extra comedic gold onto the stage. His walk alone belongs in a Monty Python sketch. One of my favourite scenes of the show is when Kim David, as Katherine Kavanaugh, is being banged from behind by BJ Gruber (playing an adorable Elliott Grey) right over an audience member. It was completely unexpected. There’s no outrageous nudity in this performance, but I’d recommend adhering to the 18+ benchmark for plenty of unapologetic sexual candour.

Though the songs aren’t anything you’ll be humming home (or for weeks afterward), the clever word plays and the insertion of some nods to other musical theatre blockbusters do add to the scope of the parody. There was a good buzz walking out of the theatre at the end of the show, and Brandon and I both noted that while the seats were mostly filled by women (ranging from their mid-20s to early 50s), there was a surprising representation from the male portion of the population. And none of them seemed too bummed to be there after the fact.

50 Shades! The Musical is a great bet for a gal’s night on the town. It’s good, fluffy fun with a bit of BDSM action on the side.

Details

  • 50 Shades! The Musical – The Original Parody is playing until April 13, 2014 at Bluma Appel Theatre (27 Front St. E)
  • Shows run Tuesday to Saturday at 8pm with matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 2pm
  • Regular tickets range from $39-$52, VIP tickets are $75 and include an after-show meet-and-greet
  • Tickets are available online or through the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts box office at 1-800-708-6754

Production photos by Michael Brosilow.

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