Given what an incredibly rich subject for parody the 50 Shades of Grey franchise is, you’d expect this to be a hilariously subversive work similar to Silence: the Musical two years earlier. What we got, instead, was the stage equivalent of a Seltzer and Friedberg spoof, full of lame, heavy-handed sex jokes.
This is the kind of show that thinks dirty jokes are automatically funny simply because they’re dirty. Think the Young Frankenstein musical on a shoestring budget, and you pretty much get the idea. In fact, the show’s biggest number, “There’s a Hole In Me”, is indistinguishable from Young Frankenstein‘s notorious “Deep Love”. They even cast a fat guy as the supposedly rugged leading man and try to milk his appearance for sight gags, a joke that was already used in a Twilight parody by Craig Moss, meaning that these guys are actually ripping off a film that ripped off Seltzer and Friedberg, which is just depressing. And what they don’t seem to understand is that obscenity isn’t funny in and of itself; you have to make it funny.
The score adopts the sounds of contemporary pop music, but it makes pretty bad use of them…during the audience’s entrance and between the acts, the theater played current pop tunes on a sound system, and nearly all of them were better than the actual score. In addition to “There’s a Hole In Me”, the low points are “I Don’t Make Love”, which ultimately devolves into endless repetitions of the word ‘fuck’ (always a sign of quality lyric-writing), and the Gilbert and Sullivan-esque embarrassment “Red Room”. Amber Petty gives a wonderfully convincing performance as the sweetly awkward leading lady, but she’s wasted on a book that never provides her with a single funny line.
The authors and producers pretty obviously knew that the subject matter alone would guarantee an audience, and, since the show was a tiny off-Broadway affair and not subject to the standards automatically applied to real Broadway shows, they clearly decided that actual effort was optional. But given the quality of the show’s most direct predecessor, Silence, the Musical, it’s clear that this material could have been the basis for a brilliantly biting parody of a truly deserving target, and the wasted potential is even worse than the quality of the show itself.