“Spank! The Fifty Shades Parody” opened to a packed and randy house of women and more than few men Thursday at the Straz Center.
Amanda Barker hilariously portrays narrator E.B. Janet, an over-the-top equivalent of “Fifty Shades” author E.L. James, who lives vicariously through the character she creates.
Though the names have been changed to protect the copyright, there’s no mistaking that Hugh Hanson, played by Gabe Bowling, and Tasha Woode, played by Danielle Trzcinski of Tampa, are the steamy novel’s lovers, Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele.
With just three people on stage playing multiple characters, the musical pokes fun at the sexually charged relationship between the billionaire businessman and non-for-much-longer virgin.
Chockfull of strong R-rated sexual references from bondage to, well, spanking, and simulated sexual acts, the audience whooped and hollered when it recognized direct parallels with the popular book trilogy including gray silk ties, handcuffs and the Red Room of Pain (you know what we’re talking about.)
The 90-minute performance includes funny local references including the minimal ridership of HARTline buses, the seemingly lack of sexual prowess of Temple Terrace residents and Tampa’s need for a Trader Joe’s.
Trzcinski and Bowling showed strong comedic and musical showmanship and their song parodies tapped into “The Pirates of Penzance,” “The Sound of Music” and, of all things, “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” Believe us, you’ll never look at Gene Wilder in the same way again.
Trzcinski was delightfully spunky as the naïve Woode, all wide-eyed and curious about her journey into BDSM. Dreamy Bowling (think James Van Der Beek) had women in the audience wanting to make it rain with a hilarious strip routine that had him going from Chippendale to Batman.
Improvisation with the audience, (beware those of you near the front), brought more laughs in the first act rather than the second, which slowed considerably but finished strong with a sweet movie reference we won’t blow here.
It helps if you’ve read the books, but regardless, you’ll still leave the theater with a smile on your face.