The sensation behind the erotic novel “Fifty Shades of Grey” has nothing to do with its trenchant character study, powerful narrative voice or intricate plot. It has to do with spanking scenes that send its heroine into transports of ecstasy.
Granted, this is not the first story ever to have raised a public flush.
But seeing E.L. James' erotic adventure read in the open, from business-class seats on commercial flights to crowded Starbucks coffee houses, fascinated Albert Samuels, who parodies the book trilogy and satirizes its phenomenon in “50 Shades! The Musical,” which opens Tuesday at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City. It will be presented there through March 30. It was originally scheduled for a shorter run but was extended thanks to sold-out shows in both Chicago and New York.
“I love that people somehow have gotten to a place where they feel completely comfortable in life reading basically a pornographic book in public, and they don't care,” says Samuels, the show's writer, director and producer.
The “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy tells how successful entrepreneur Christian Grey introduces coed Anastasia Steele to his world of mystery, darkness and bondage. The book is loosely based on the “Twilight” series. Since its release, it has shattered sales records around the globe with more than 32 million copies sold in the United States alone and is being adapted into a 2015 Universal feature film that's sure to be a blockbuster.
But first up is what Entertainment Weekly calls “the perfect appetizer” — the musical parody.
Not wanting to exclude those who hadn't read or disliked the book, Samuels and his team decided to tackle the story from the viewpoint of three book club women. Through their interpretations of the book, the audience is led on a hilarious journey of song and dance numbers not recommended for those younger than 18.
The show is currently presented in English and Dutch and soon will be translated into Spanish, German and French.
“50 Shades! The Musical” features original songs like “They Get Nasty,” “I Don't Make Love” and “There's a Hole Inside of Me” — a classic musical theater trope referred to as the “I wish song.” Think “Part of Your World” from Disney's “The Little Mermaid,” “Over the Rainbow” from “The Wizard of Oz” and “Somewhere That's Green” from “Little Shop of Horrors.”
The song was born out of a brainstorming session about the Anastasia character.
“There's not a lot to her,” Samuels says. “She just kind of wants something, but isn't sure of what she wants. She's kind of empty.”
Hence the double entendre.
“I think people are amazed at how far we go with stuff,” Samuels says. “Sometimes the resident director of the tour will call me up and put the show on speaker and I hear people screaming with laughter, which I love.”
Although the musical parody is “not associated with, endorsed or authorized by” James or her U.S. publisher, Vintage Books, Samuels believes the British author would get a kick out of it.“I'd love for her to see it,” he says. “It's such a loving and yet funny send-up.