’50 Shades’ of hysterically funny in Culver City

I haven’t read “50 Shades of Gray” and I’m probably not going to buy the book or even flip through it at the bookstore. You don’t have to read the book in order to get the comedy here and the audience was howling with laughter at the opening performance of “50 Shades! The Musical: The Original Parody” at the Kirk Douglas Theatre until 30 March 2014.

What you do need to know about the book is that the 2011 erotic novel was about a sexual relationship between a college graduate Anastasia Steele and a young super successful businessman Christian Grey. Grey is interested in BDSM and wants only a sexual relationship and not a romantic one with Ana who is a virgin. He gets her to sign one of two extensive contracts about their relationship. Because Grey is so fabulously rich and thin and handsome and gives Ana expensive gifts, Ana finds him hard to resist. I guess every girl has her price, right? At least in roman-rotica where the brooding hunk is always too rich and too handsome for real life.

As cast for Kirk Douglas production, “50 Shades! The Musical” gives us real people who plunge shamelessly into this campy parody which, we’re told, is 69 minutes long (with a 15 minute intermission). Be ready for mature content and lusty appreciation for sexual attraction at its most ridiculous.

The live band (Daniel Reitz on piano, Christopher Ditton on bass and Douglas Levin on drums) sets the mood on the bare black stage. The conceit of this parody is that three middle-aged women are meeting for their weekly book club, “no husbands, just us gals.” The three have their own recommendations for a new book. Carol the clueless suggests a Martha Stewart tome to domesticity, Bev wants to try “The Diary of Anne Frank,” but Pam (Tiffany Dissette) wants to try a book that will make you warm down there–“50 Shades of Grey.”

This is how we plunge into scenes of the actual novel. Our Ana (Eileen Patterson) is a sturdy brunette young woman in a white dress with black polka dots. In Mary Janes instead of pumps, Ana has plenty of opportunity to expose her pink underwear and while that might tickle the sexual fantasies of up-skirt aficionados, there is no nudity.

Like many single girl sitcoms, Ana has a best friend slut. Her roommate Kate (Glennis McCarthy) is  too drunk to drive four-hours to interview the rich Christian Grey–something she needs to do to complete a journalism class assignment.

Christian (Jack Boice) dresses in a grey suit and flaming red shirt, but doffs that to proudly display his pot belly in a flaming read mankini.  Think that sounds sexy? Boice’s Christian can’t imagine that you wouldn’t. That belly protects the joystick.

Ana is also pursued by her friend José (Nick Semar) whose Latin accent is about as authentic as his Spanish crab walk. You have to see it to appreciate it. Kate settles for sex with Christian’s brother Elliot (BJ Gruber).

Of course the lives of the housewives reading the book are transformed, well almost. Pam finds her Inner Goddess through belly dancing. Bev does zumba. Carol makes soup until she admits her unseen husband Bob has left her for good and finally allows herself to flirt with audience members.

If you want to see hunks, don’t worry. There are two male dancers (Gruber and Datus Puryear) who fill the bill quite nicely and Caroline Reade as the Inner Goddess dons a naughty corset and heels for those who appreciate more feminine scenery.

The music and lyrics by Albert Samuels, Amanda B. Davis, Dan Wessels, Jody Shelton and Ashley Ward are solid and backed by the considerable vocal talents of this cast. You can probably guess where the second song, “There’s a Hole Inside of Me” is going and won’t be shocked by lyrics like “Who will fill my slot?” or “someone come along to explore my cave.” While this musical might fully mind the innuendo potential of innocent words, and it’s not exactly a minefield of F-bombs, the f-word is used, particularly in the song “I Don’t Make Love.”

The musical was also written by committee: Samuels, Davis, Emily Dorezas, Shelton and Ward. They leave no doubt of their critical opinion of the novel. Liked it, loathed it, haven’t read it?  Doesn’t matter. This musical will make you laugh.

“50 Shades: The Musical” continues until 30 March 2014 at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City. From $30. Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 5 p.m. and 9 p.m.; Sundays 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. (213) 972-4488. Tickets and information at www.50ShadesMusical.com.

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