"The Fifty Shades of Grey" is the book trilogy that has shattered sales records around the world with more than 32 million copies sold in the United States alone, and a 2013 Universal Pictures feature film release already touted to be a cinematic blockbuster.
So should it be any surprise there are already two stage parodies of this book about power struggles and fantasies of bedroom politics?
Up first, and billed as "now, for the first time, the original parody," "50 Shades! The Musical," played this month in Chicago at the Apollo Theater, 2540 N. Lincoln Ave., Nov. 16 and 17 and then moved to the North Shore Center For The Performing Arts in Skokie for performances this weekend, before closing.
Promos called it "a resounding hit at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival" that opens with a ladies book club deciding to read "Fifty Shades of Grey." Through their interpretation of the novel, the audience is then led on a roller-coaster ride of the unlikely bestseller with this show filled with dance numbers, 11 original songs and a live band backing the performance. With a $20 ticket price, it also came with the disclaimer: "Not for those under the age of 18, but does not cross boundaries that would make general audiences squirm."
Up next, it's "SPANK! The Fifty Shades Parody," described as "the hilarious and naughty new parody of 'Fifty Shades of Grey,' " playing at the Royal George Theatre Main Stage, 1641 N. Halsted, in a limited three-week engagement starting this Wednesday. The production, which premiered in Springfield, Mass., earlier this month, is produced by Mills Entertainment, and being presented in Chicago by the Just For Laughs Group.
This stage incarnation is marketed as "a high energy parody of Fifty Shades of Grey, the risqué novel which recently surpassed 'Harry Potter' to become the fastest-selling paperback of all time. Written and directed by Jim Millan, whose credits include "The Kids in the Hall," "Larry King Standing Up," "Marijuanalogues with Tommy Chong," and "Mythbusters Live," Michael Mills, the producer of "SPANK!," says audience members can expect "a laugh-filled evening that captures all the escapist fun and absurdity of the novel."
I'm told "The Fifty Shades" characters are brought to life with "sexy and fun musical numbers" and to "think part 'Saturday Night Live' and part Chippendale's and even those who haven't read the book will get it."
Tickets are $52.50 and $42.50 at (800) 982-2787 or (312) 988-9000; or visiting the Royal George box office. A limited number of VIP tickets, offering premium seating, a cast meet-and-greet, and beverage, are priced at $75 and available for each performance. FYI: spankshow.com or millsentertainment.com