Spank! head writer and director Jim Millan talks about the show.
Taking guilty pleasures to new heights, the “Fifty Shades” trilogy by fan-fiction writer E. L. James broke publishing records and set Kindles afire and Nooks a-quivering with the rough and steamy escapades of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey.
As any soccer mom can tell you, the publishing phenomenon “Fifty Shades of Grey” tells the story of a literature student who meets a young and dashing billionaire (is there any other?). She is pretty and virginal, while he has a taste for the kinkier side of sexual congress and proposes a dominant-submissive relationship with the college student.
Published first in 2011, most recent sales estimates of “Fifty Shades of Grey” put the book at approximately 40 million in domestic sales, 70 million worldwide – and counting. The number of actual readers who have devoured its pages is difficult to estimate since many of the books were passed along from friend to friend.
Speculation as to who will star in the planned film adaptation keeps the internet abuzz with name-dropping. James Franco, Alex Pettyfer and Matt Bomer have been bandied about for Christian, while Emilia Clarke (“Game of Thrones”) and current Hollywood “it” girl Jennifer Lawrence have been mentioned for Anastasia.
Before the film starts rolling, various producers have unchained “Fifty Shades” spoofs. Cuff Me opened off-Broadway, while 50 Shades! The Musical has been seen in a number of cities here [stopping in Baltimore for one night only on May 4] and abroad.
The North America tour of Spank! The Fifty Shades Parody hopes to whip up audiences in Silver Spring this week when it makes a stop at the Fillmore for six performances May 22-25, 2013.
If reports from other tour stops are any indication, the female-friendly show lathers up the crowd into a fist-pumping frenzy. Throughout the show, clever song pastiches are used to comment on the action. Song, dance, submission and sodomy: now that’s entertainment.
The head-writer and director of Spank! is Jim Millan. His writing credits include “The Kids in the Hall,” “Larry King Standing Up,” “Marijuanalogues with Tommy Chong,” and “Mythbusters Live.” At the invitation of producer Mike Mills of Mills Entertainment, Millan was tasked with creating a spoof of James’ wildly successful erotic fantasies.
“For us it was great fun to parody the book,” recalled Millan. “As soon as you say the plot – a 28 year-old perfect-looking billionaire falls for a 21 year-old virgin, there’s comedy right there.”
“It started out as a really fun idea, to do a comic parody of these books. Our parody also taps into the groundswell of enthusiasm for fantasy. It obviously speaks to something larger in society if 80 million women read a book exploring a sexier fantasy than the one they are living.”
The national and international reach of the books was not lost on the creative team, according to Millan. “At the time Mike called me to get started, 20 million women had read “Fifty Shades of Grey.” By the time we finished creating it, 40 million had read it. And the numbers keep going up and up.”
To write Spank!, Millan pulled together an “all-star comedy team of young writers.” In homage to the book’s author, the writers are listed as J.S. Blair, I.M. Macintyre, S.A. Moran, C.J. Munch, A.M. Scheffler, and I.P. Whalen.
Millan praised the writing team’s success at pulling the show together very quickly. “I was blessed to be surrounded by such quality people with keen comedy minds. They kept me on my toes.”
Opening last fall, Spank! has proved to be a popular evening of comedy. Since January, there have been two companies performing it constantly all across America. The audiences have ranged from a few hundred to 1,700 in some of the largest venues. Millan and his creative team have continued working on the show as it travels from coast to coast. “The show you’re going to get in DC has been honed on the road, so it’s going to be a lean, mean comedy machine.”
Spank! The Fifty Shades Parody is told by a housewife-slash-author, here called E.B. Janet (Suzanne Sole). While her husband and kids are away, E.B. decides to write a sexy trilogy before the weekend is over. Composing her sordid fiction, the author conjures up the virginal Tasha Woode (Danielle Trzcinski) and Hugh (Patrick Whalen), the billionaire with washboard abs and a taste for rough sex. As they begin a submissive-dominant relationship, Woode and Hanson (stand-ins for Steele and Grey) explore each other and push the limits of intimacy.
Let’s call it S&M meets SNL.
“We are proud of the sense in the show that anything could happen. The audience sees the author creating the characters and their sex fantasy. Because she’s creating in front of them, the audience also gets to witness ideas she has that don’t make it into the book.” Pop culture references are tossed into the mix, as well as well-placed musical numbers. “We try to surprise people with the musical parodies we do. Hugh pulls out a guitar and the audience thinks it’s going to be a certain kind of song.”
Case in point: Willy Wonka’s delightful “Pure Imagination” becomes an ode to the billionaire’s kinky little get-away, “Room of Sexy Domination.”
Just how naughty and sexy does it get in Spank!?
“It doesn’t get as naughty and sexy as the book, but it’s certainly enough. There are whoops and hollering from the women in the crowd at various points. If someone likes the book or is intrigued by the material in the show, they are certainly going to have a lot of laughs. And they will have a few ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’ watching our show.”
May 22 – 25, 2013
8656 Colesville Rd,
Silver Spring, MD 20910
(across the street from
Round House-Silver Spring)
Details and Tickets
Short of a celebrity endorsement, Millan recounted his surprise when a famous Hollywood couple took in the show.
“Recently we were in Palm Springs, and Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn came to the show. We didn’t know they were in the audience. Opening the stage door to find Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell there wanting to meet us and tell us what an incredibly funny show it was, that was a big thrill.”
“Goldie is a comedy icon. That was really a nice highlight, for someone who has been involved in so many great and funny moments as she has talking to us about how much she loved this show. It was a bit of an out of body experience.”
Asked to give three reasons to put down the velvet whip and fur-handcuffs and buy tickets to Spank! The Fifty Shades Parody, Millan responded: “Number one: You can’t do that all day everyday. Two: maybe you will meet other fun people from your community. And, three: you are going to laugh harder than you will the whole rest of the year.”
Spank! The Fifty Shades Parody features Danielle Trzcinski as “Tasha Woode” (the Anastasia Steele-like character), Patrick Whalen as “Hugh Hanson” (the Christian Grey-like character), Suzanne Sole as “E.B. Janet” (the “author”).