Spank! The Fifty Shades of Parody Review - Would Christian Grey Approve?

E L James’ Fifty Shades of Grey has given Americans a lot of sore bottoms, some very interesting dinner conversations, and one hilarious Saturday Night Live skit*.  It has now also resulted in at least one parody.  Playing through the middle of December at the Royal George Theater, Spank! The Fifty Shades Parody pokes fun not just at the aforementioned S & M franchise, but also the Twilight series, middle aged fantasies, and all things bondage.  It even goes so far as to give a shout out to Willie Wonka and the movie Say Anything.  Considering the rich source material of Fifty Shades, why so many cultural references?  Well, when you have two hours to kill you get jokes where you can. 

Michelle Vezilj, Drew Moerlein, and Amanda Barker

To be fair, I am not exactly the target audience.  Judging by the opening night crowd, this play should do quite well with bachelorette parties, girl night out, and bat mitzvahs crowds (that last one’s a joke, do not take your thirteen year to this play).  Spank!, in fact, has all the ingredients of a successful road production; a bit of skin, selective audience participation, sexually charged jokes (and who does not appreciate a good fisting joke?), and some high energy dance music to fill in the lulls. 

Drew Moerlein

What frustrated me was the waste of genuine talent on stage.  The cast here is good.  For starters, Amanda Barker (as E.B. Jones) is just plain funny.  When the mediocre script allowed her to adlib a bit with the audience, she made the most of the opportunity.  She also is not above the use of physical comedy and it is quite funny seeing her do the splits.  The play bill credits Barker with a significant amount of improv experience and I would pay to see her in that element.  Michelle Vezilj and Drew Moerlein also impressed me with their comedic instincts.  Unfortunately the three of them spend too much time humping curtains, playing bashful, and overacting in between quick strip tease numbers.  Although judging by the hoots and hollers, the crowd did not mind seeing Moerlein on stage in his speedo underwear.  But he also did well playing a brief acoustic set of bondage inspired pop tunes.  I would have liked to see more of that and less of his abs.

Michelle Vezilj and Drew Moerlein

It took seven writers to create Spank!  (or over two writers per actor).  With so many hands in the pot it is not surprising that the play often felt weighted down.  Two acts seemed one to many here and jokes repeat often (what is good for bar sales is not always good for humor).  I could not help but wonder what the same actors might be capable of in a more freewheeling play where the script, and not the actors, are stripped down. I think even Christian Grey would agree. 

Drew Moerlein

Bottom Line:  Spank! The Fifty Shades Parody is recommended for groups of women looking for a good time.  It might help to go with a cocktail in hand.  Tickets range from $42.50 to $52.50 with a limited number of VIP tickets available (among other things you get to meet the cast).  To purchase tickets click at spankshow.com   or call (773) 327-3778.  For more theater information including reviews, click here:  theaterinchicago.com 

*Funny SNL skit http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/amazon-mothers-day-ad/1400037/

Drew Moerlein

Photos courtesy of The Silverman Group Inc.

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