From a talented cast unafraid to improvise, to on-point writing, to musical numbers as amusing as the jokes themselves, 50 Shades the Musical Parody, performed at the Straz last weekend, filled all the needs of a highly entertaining show.
The cast for the show was exceptional. Ben Caplan as Christian Grey was the highlight of the night. He was a hilarious contrast to the two eye-candy dancers (Matthew Alexander and Adam Hyndman) — yet he received the most cheers from the women in the audience. Caplan absolutely owned the role and was not afraid improvise, adding hilarious lyrics to the song "I Don't Make Love" by pointing out various female members of the audience he would have sex with.
Playing opposite Caplan's sexed up antics was Katie LaMark as Anastasia Steele. LaMark's performance was dead on and the naivete and innocence she brought to the character made moments like Anastasia's impassioned speech on fisting that much more memorable and hilarious. Other nightly notables were Diego Klock-Perez's Pepe le Pew-like Jose, the Clueless-esque performance of Alexis Field as Katherine, and the lonely housewife Carol (Melanie Brook), who shows her true colors after she asks an audience member to meet her pussy cats.
The intelligence of the writing shined through the actor's performances. At times incredibly blunt, such as the simulated sex scenes on stage and in the audience, and at times incredibly clever, such as the tune "There's a Hole Inside of Me," the writers always seemed to know when which was appropriate, right down to the announcements. The opening announcement proclaimed the show to be "69 minutes long" and at intermission the audience was asked to "wet your whistle and dry your seat."
A musical isn't a musical without great songs and 50 Shades has plenty to spare. Thoughtful numbers like "There's a Hole Inside of Me" and "Just Like any Other Couple" are filled with double entendre as entertaining as the onstage jokes. Horn-dog ballads like "Mi Amor" and "I Don't Make Love" get cheers and gasps from the audience. There's even a little diddy about all of Christian Grey's sex toys. Throughout all of these songs the band (Riley Thomas, piano, Vivien Larena, bass, and Chris Ditton, drums) were always on point, keeping up flawlessly with Caplan's improvisation of "I Don't Make Love," and even adding their own instrumentation at the end of "Hole Inside of Me's" gospel reprisal.
50 Shades celebrates a woman's sexuality and shows that women can be just as raunchy as men. It's a perfect show for a girl's night out or even date night, as there's plenty of entertainment for guys too.