Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, you’ve no doubt heard of 50 Shades of Grey. An incredibly popular book trilogy, the series is about to be adapted into a feature film and any mention of it sends women’s hearts aflutter.
While one might not always associate comedy with 50 Shades of Grey, husband and wife team Albert Samuels and Emily Dorezas decided to take their Second City background and put it to the test by creating a raucous parody based on the books.
The show is on stage now in Toronto, and Albert and Emily sat down to chat with me about all things Grey!
Congratulations on 50 Shades! The Musical – The Original Parody! Can you walk us through how you came up with the wacky idea to have a woman’s book club parody the famous trilogy?
AL: Thank you for the kind words! When I first sat down to start writing the outline of the story, I thought about “What’s the first thing you think of when you think of these books?” – and of course spanking and moaning came to mind. Then I thought what would be the furthest thing from that- and I thought “A group of three suburban book club ladies”. So these three became a great framing device for the musical. The book club ladies allow people who haven’t read the books an entrée in to the world.
ED: As we continued writing, we really fleshed out these characters. So we end up following two journeys – the story of Ana and Christian (from the book) and these three book club ladies. There’s a ton of stuff in both worlds- the book itself and the book club ladies- to make fun of.
AL: And there’s a ton in both worlds to write fun and…well, really filthy songs.
Have you both read the books? If so, did your thoughts/opinions differ?
AL: I have. It’s my job to read erotic mommy porn.
ED: Don’t tell my dad, but yes.
You’ve both worked with the acclaimed Second City – did that training ground help give you the skills to pull off a show like this? And will there be any improvisation or audience involvement in 50 Shades! The Musical?
AL: Second City is where we met- I was performing there on the Mainstage and Emily was a producer.
ED: When our eyes met, we both thought…. “I am going to write a parody musical of a soft core trilogy with this person”.
AL: Classic love story.
ED: While the skills we learned from Second City were helpful, what has been most helpful has been our involvement in Baby Wants Candy, the musical improvisational ensemble/supergroup (www.babywantscandy.com). Al and some other Chicago comedians founded the group, and I came on as a producer. The group has grown and grown- we’ve performed over 3000 improvised musicals all over the world for years.
AL: Baby Wants Candy has a really loose, fun and often dirty style that audiences really seem to love. We carried that spirit forward into 50 Shades.
Time Magazine said this was a show that could appeal to ‘your inner goddess, your book club and your mother-in-law.’ That’s a pretty bold statement. Do you think it really does have something for everyone? What about a traditional ‘prude’? Are they going to run screaming for the hills?
ED: It really does. It’s crazy the range of people we have who come to the show- from 20 somethings to grandmothers, women and men. We ended up with 6 writers- 3 women and 3 men- and half of us had read the books and the other half hadn’t. So this gave us the ability to create a parody that would appeal to people from all over the spectrum.
AL: Spectrum sounds like a dirty word, even if it isn’t.
ED: My 90 year old grandma came to the show and loved it. And of course our audiences are packed with screaming women. But at the same time, guys LOVE the show because we cater to them- to their confusion/suspicion about the books. And I love that we often get messages from these men after the show, thanking us for the “benefits” at home they get after the show.
AL: Whatever could you mean by “benefits”?
AL: The show gets pretty naughty. There’s no nudity on stage, but the show pokes fun of the content in the book and some of the language is of course pretty adult. In the end, it’s a Book of Mormon treatment of the books- fun, raunchy, dirty.
ED: But with a heart of gold.
AL: It is a musical after all.
ED: We have a cast album with all original music! The songs are really fun and catchy, though you may not want to play some of the songs at your holiday party.
AL: I would.
I understand that you two are married – has working on this project resulted in the themes from the book creeping into your personal life? Are things a bit spicier now?
AL: Let’s just say that there’s a whole new meaning to the phrase “I’m tied up at work.”
ED: Yes. It literally means I’ve tied him to his desk until he finishes some work I’ve asked him to do.
What’s the best and worst part about working with your spouse?
AL: It’s all great.
ED: Good answer.
Finally, if someone has never read the 50 Shades books or (worse) read them and hated them, can they still come out and enjoy the show?
AL: That was the whole idea when we created the show- you’d (hopefully) love it whether or not you’ve read the books, and whether or not you liked them or not. Good parody not only satirizes- it celebrates all the wonderful and weird things about the subject.
ED: And there are SO many weird and wonderful things about these books. And as Al said, remember it’s a parody. We celebrate the whole phenomenon while making merciless fun of them.
AL: I’d say more but I’m tied up at work.
50 Shades The Musical is on stage at The Bluma Appel theatre until April 13th, 2014. For more information or to purchase tickets please visit the official website at 50shadesthemusical.com