by Kate Whittle
I really have not read 50 Shades of Gray, I promise you. Not in its entirety, anyway. But I still wasn't about to turn down a chance to see Spank! The 50 Shades Parody, a touring production that stopped at the Wilma on Thursday night. I wasn't sure what to expect, but the evening ended up being raunchy and hilarious.
When I arrived at the Wilma and got in line for popcorn and a drink, it was clear that the crowd—mostly women, yes—was ready to have a good time. "The line is shorter upstairs," someone said, but her thrifty friend yelled, "They only serve one glass upstairs! I need a whole bottle!" (Also, pro tip: it's a better deal to buy a whole bottle at the Wilma, though try not to spill, 'cause they pour the whole thing into plastic cups.)
The setup for Spank! is simple: middle-aged Janet, "a wife, mom and kickass senior accounts manager!" is enjoying a boozy weekend alone at home while her husband and kids are away. She busts out the Chardonnay and gets to writing a dirty story for one of her favorite fanfiction sites, conjuring up our virginal heroine Natasha and her mysterious, muscled dominator, Hugh. A series of songs, dances and skits tell the story of how Hugh seduces Natasha and introduces her to bondage. There's plenty of winking references to everything from Batman to Twilight to Love Actually. With three actors and minimal props, the production has a casual, vaudeville feel that makes it all the more fun when the actors break the fourth wall and venture out into the audience. One woman in the audience suggested some surprisingly obscene things to do with a squash, which was awesome.
The show sticks to a lighthearted tone, with plenty of references to crops and ball gags but not many scenes at all resembling real BDSM—or any actual nudity—making it accessible to a wide range of age groups (and maturity levels). Probably the best part of Spank! is how self-referential it is. Janet says to her fictional creation Natasha at one point, "You don't wanna end up like me... married, with children." For Janet, imagining a relationship that's impossibly sexy and intriguing and romantic is an escape from her humdrum life, the way reading 50 Shades or seeing the Spank! musical is for a lot of real-life women.
Okay, I'd be lying if I said the other best part of Spank! wasn't Hugh's strip-tease scene. The audience's shrieks were deafening. Overall, the show made for a great, energy-releasing ladies' (and gent's) night out.