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posted: 12/12/2013 11:41 AM

50 Shades the Musical: Bring on the sequel!

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  • Video: 50 Shades the Musical

By Diana Martinez, Broadway in Chicago

I think the woman sitting next to me said it best as she wiped tears from her eyes from laughing so hard on the opening night of 50 Shades! The Musical at the Broadway Playhouse: "Ah, it's good to laugh." She followed that up with, "Do you think it was bad to bring my 20 year old nephew?"

This new musical sketch-comedy-parody was written by veterans and performers of the Chicago Improv community, specifically, Baby Wants Candy and The Second City -- and it has culminated into a big pile of success. The show delivers great songs, a wonderful cast, powerful voices and a lot of laughs. I have to give a shout-out to one of the writers, Amanda Blake Davis who is one of my favorite performers; you can see her smart and witty marks all over the show.

Many may say, this is something you would see at a Second City or Improv Olympics, however it's not as easy as one may think to write a an original musical parody that has an effective storyline. (As former president of The Second City I can tell you it's tough to find the right subject to parody without being trite and predictable, that also has mass appeal and a commercial title, with the content to back it up and deliver.)

This parody is done with the right balance of wit, laughs and surprises. The writers know when to weave in a pastiche of outside inferences for heighted "melodrama" from other schmaltzy musical theatre moments, like the romantic boat ride scene from The Phantom of the Opera, or infusing a dramatic choreography reference from the infamous flag-waving-march-step at the end of Les Miserables. This ensemble did it right. It includes the audience just enough to allow us to all validate the strange thoughts and questions that women thought to themselves while glued to the book it is spoofing.

It's hard to talk about details too much without spoiling the laughs. But let's suffice it to say that the character of Christian Grey (Chris Grace) delivers a very unique interpretation and will be "more than you imagined" when you were curled up on the couch reading this steamy bestseller. He has a great pop voice and the ability to break the fourth wall and play off the audience. A "Greek Chorus" of sorts strings the show together, in the form of a women's book group. These gals have the vocal pipes and comic timing that delivers some of the best one-liners in the show. They have a great synergy, and the audience relates to their trials and tribulations of "getting through the book" without having "feelings they don't understand." Amber Petty hits all the right notes as Anastasia Steel and really shows us how a girl could justify pretty much anything for a little sensuality -- and a lot of money and security. She has a powerful voice and wonderful delivery.

The show is an easy and quick hour-and-a-half with an intermission, and it runs through October 27. Tickets are going fast and a few performances have been added. So get there before it leaves town and enjoy some great laughs!

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