‘Spank! The Fifty Shades Parody’ Delivers Bawdy, Flirty Fun
When the spotlight lit the Veterans Memorial Auditorium tonight, another crowd of screaming fans were introduced to their ultimate fantasy, a tall drink of water named Hugh Hanson, the eye candy women (and a few men) came to see in Spank! The Fifty Shades Parody.
Hanson, based on the character Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades books and played with tongue-in-cheek bravado by actor Ken Allen Neely, happily got the party started as he danced his way across the stage like a Chippendale dancer in slow motion. I could almost hear the sound effects reel playing from The Six Million Dollar Man, but the audience ate up the campy humour of the moment as Neely set the mood of the night with each whip of his tie.
Irreverent, ribald, and completely over the top, Spank! merrily pokes fun at E.L. James and her provocative bestselling series of romance novels that the Huffington Post's Jesse Kornbluth once called "a sad joke, puny of plot, padded with conversations that are repeated five or six times and email exchanges that are neither romantic nor witty." Yet these things are exactly what give the show its ammunition.
Anne Marie Scheffler plays the author, E.B. Janet, a bored housewife who sends her husband and children off for the weekend to Disney World to hole herself up at home for a weekend with her computer and a bottle of chardonnay, determined to write the ultimate female fantasy. Scheffler has too much fun with this role and is reminiscent of Megan Mullally in TV's Will & Grace, gleefully crafting her characters, the innocent virgin and the godlike leading man with a flair for the dramatic and a taste for the kinky. At points in the show, Scheffler breaks the fourth wall to interact with the audience, bringing down the house in peels of unbridled laughter.
The virgin, Tasha Woode (because who names a character Anastasia?) is played by Andrea Muller, a tiny dynamo who is as irreverent as she is innocent. She happily hams up Tasha's chronic lip-chewing, socially awkward to the point of being Asperger's syndrome inflicted, prurient character to the nines, joyously singing her heart out as she asks the audience embarrassing questions about her new boyfriend's predilections in the bedroom.
Still, it is Neely the women went to see at Spank! and he is the one who steals the show. It is obvious the actor savors his character's lusty appetite and carries it off with an exhibitionist's flair, but setting aside his cinematic good looks and chiseled abs, he is also an excellent comedic actor with a phenomenal voice. Whether he is singing the parody versions of Willy Wonka's "Pure Imagination," Enrique Igesias' "Hero" or the Sound of Music's "Sixteen Going On Seventeen," each song was met with the applause typically saved for a pop star. But then, who wouldn't applaud someone who looks like Alexander Skarsgard and has Adam Levine's moves and blatant charisma?
All in all, Spank! is a fun romp for grown ups, a sexy lampoon that smartly pokes fun at a literary phenomenon, the roles of men and women in romantic relationships, and pretty much anything else that dares to cross its path. It isn't for the faint of heart and is frequently downright lewd, but if you knew anything about E.L. James' books before the show, you likely knew that going in. This is a flirty show that is hysterically funny and is destined to become a favorite among girlfriends everywhere.