Right: The randy housewives having a ball. Below right: Pam played by Natalie Mead and Sean Dowling as Christian Grey. Photos by Storm Jury
50 Shades! The Musical Parody
By Albert Samuels, Amanda B Davis, Emily Dorezas, Joseph Shelton, Ashley ward and Dan Wessels
Directed by Nathan Parmenter
Choreographer Cherie Lange
Brisbane Arts Theatre
Season: May 14- August 28 on various days. Bookings: artstheatre.com.au or 3369 2344. Running time: 69 minutes! (sex plug noted) plus 20 minute interval.
Well, I am not one of the 150 million people who have read the book 50 Shades of Grey, but it was obvious that most of the opening night audience had. That audience too was mainly female. They came along in groups ready for fun and games - and they got them as they hooted and cheered the cast along in this quite funny send up of the book, which a been panned for its bad writing and sexual violence.
I think everyone in the theatre had a good time laughing at the bizarre characters that paraded on stage.
The basis for the show is a set of very clever and often sexually explicit songs, but this is really the least sexy sex show you’ll ever see. No nudity, a few funny young men in underpants, not even a bare female breast, which is odd in itself as the plot involved domination and masochism. There some kinky costumes from Francesca Walker that fit the bill nicely to add to the humour of the piece.
We did get a look at whips and chains, but a pretty pink dog lead was as deep as the punishment went. But then this is a comedy, very short and split into two acts. The story unfolds as three book club members; Carol (Michelle Dagan), Bev (Gillian Kristensen) and Ana (Jessica Meyer) decide to read 50 Shades of Grey.
So we slip into the story of the sweet virgin girl Pam, played with a lovely touch of over-the-top naivety by Natalie Mead and of the domineering Christian Grey, beautifully hammed up by Sean Dowling. He was hilarious as he acted in a melodramatic tone that would have gone down well in Victorian times. He was a lovely villain and he had a good singing voice.
In fact this was one of the highlights of the show – the band of talented vocalists who delivered those 11 witty tunes with such clarity that not a word was missed, which was vital to the show. You need to hear every word of the double- entendres in I Have a Hole Inside of Me, which was soulfully and neatly sung by Pam – and the funniest of them all, Just Like Any Other Couple.
The clarity was a great tribute to designer Ben Jeffreys and audio engineer Bradley Hebbard who created a great audio mix which was never blasted out by the trio of Faron Swingler (keyboard and MD), Jessie Harris (bass) and Tracie Comber on drums.
There were a couple more great characters involved, Katherine the foul-mouthed sexpot who was a delight to watch. This was a top performance by Cherie Lange who also choreographed the simple but effective dance numbers. Then there was Pam’s suitor the Mexican Jose which gave Stephen Smith the chance to have a lot of fun – and sing of course.
Macca Kelly had the minor role of Elliot Grey, Christian’s respectable brother. Then there as the ensemble of Michael Hammett, Nathaniel Taplin, Michelle Radu and Micah Rustichelli which added so much to the production with tremendous energy and humour. It looked as though they were having as much fun as the audience and were a great asset to the show.
This was Nathan Parmenter’s directional debut for the Arts Theatre and I thought he did a damn fine job from casting to delivery on stage.