BWW Interviews: The Wild World of 50 SHADES! THE MUSICAL

It's coming. Yes, it's really coming. 50 SHADES! THE MUSICAL is about to open in Los Angeles on February 25th and audiences have never been crazier over a show than this one. Based on the wildly popular book, 50 Shades of Grey, the musical parody takes the audience into the world of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele through the eyes of a group of book club ladies who read the book together. The production is a collaboration between a team of comedy writers that includes Al Samuels, Emily Dorezas, Amanda Blake Davis, Jody Shelton, Ashley Ward and Dan Wessels, and it was written in an unconventional manner. Before it arrives, I had a chance to talk to writer, Emily Dorezas, who is also a producer and the show's touring director, and Tiffany Dissette, who plays Pam, about how the musical got started and what we can expect to see.

Emily Dorezas: 50 Shades - A Writer's Perspective

Emily, what inspired you to write a parody of 50 Shades of Grey?

Emily: I think it was a couple of things. All of the writers come from a comedy background and whenever there's a phenomenon, be it political or cultural, we know it's ripe for comedy. Some of us hadn't even read the book yet but there was such a frenzy around it that we realized there could be something to have fun with there. I think the juxtaposition of the material, which was provocative, and who was reading the material - conservative housewives - seemed to be something we wanted to make fun of.

Who came up with the idea to do a parody?

E: I'm also one of the producers, along with Marshall Cordell and Al Samuels, and one day Marshall said he had seen a news story about hardware stores running out of rope after the book came out. He's this crazy entrepreneur and he was thinking maybe he should invest in a rope factory in China, but in the meantime, he said we should think about making fun of this. So even though Marshall isn't one of the writers, it was definitely his idea. And then I think it was Al who said, let's do a musical!

Did you all get together in a room to write, comedy sketch style, or did you work individually and then bring ideas in?

E: It was very much a complete collaboration because we had a very short amount of time to write it and put it up. Initially, the idea came in July 2012 and then, while we were in Scotland for something else, we got a date for the show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. That was three weeks after the idea came to life. We went from starting in a room together, to working on google docs from an apartment in Scotland while some of the writers were writing in L.A. It was crazy. So in terms of writing style, it was much more like a TV show - all hands in - than it was a typical musical that takes longer to develop and workshop before it comes to life. Usually a musical takes a couple of years with fewer writers. This took a team and we got it up fast.

How have audiences responded? Was there anything that surprised you?

E: The male reaction was the biggest surprise for me. As the tour went on, we would get these private messages via Facebook or our emails with guys thanking us because they had no idea what their wives and girlfriends were reading before they came to the show. They knew it was erotic but I think they thought the show would be 'just a chick flick on stage' and I'm quoting a guy on that. I think that is how most guys really come to the show. They're kind of dragged there. One guy said the party hasn't stopped since we got home last week, so I think it starts the conversation. These guys aren't going to necessarily read the book but they'll come and they'll laugh together at a show and then realize... you're into that? Okay, I had no idea.

What should the audience expect to see?

E: It's a musical parody and it is definitely in the style of a Book of Mormon treatment of 50 Shades of Grey. We're all deep in that world of Family Guy musicals and South Park musicals and SNL...that style of comedy, so it's really fast and in your face. It's not your typical musical comedy. This is funny first, and we have some great songs too. It's not for kids but there's no nudity. There's a lot of suggestive body placement and there's a ton of innuendo, and obviously there are a lot of terms that we did not shy away from that are in the book. But it's a good laugh. You might not want to watch it with your parents...but your parents will have a great time at it!

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Ellen Dostal In addition to being part of the west coast Broadway World team, Ellen also publishes two popular Southern California Theatre Blogs - Musicals in LA and Shakespeare in LA. An actress, singer and voiceover artist, she is also a producer with the Academy for New Musical Theatre, and works with the development of new musicals across the country.

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