NY Theater Review By Joel Benjamin
Being one of the twelve people who has not read E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey, I wondered if I would appreciate 50 Shades of F****d Up, the naughty—tongue-in-cheek—new musical, subtitled the “Other Unauthorized Parody.” Not to worry. Behind a façade of blatant sexuality and many references to sex acts, 50 Shades is completely accessible and is actually, underneath all the simulated smut, a sweet love story about a wide-eyed virgin, Anastasia (Jenna Dallacco) who falls for a self-centered powerful businessman, Christian Grey (Ben McHugh). That he lords it over her with his S&M demands doesn’t hide that he is falling for this innocent, but eager young lady. Ana, as she is called, has a bossy, sexy roommate Katherine/Kate (Krista DeMille) plus a very sassy Inner Goddess (Cedric Leiba, Jr.), a queeny conscience in a flowing kimono. In the final analysis, she’s simply a girl seeking love—admittedly in all the wrong places.
Written and directed in a cartoony, over-the-top style by Tricia Brouk (who also provided the disco tinged choreography), 50 Shades is also a musical with songs, ranging from pop to disco to soaring ballads, by Andrew David Sotomayor. “Ordinary Girl,” sung by Ana, backed up by the Grey’s Global Chorus (Ms. DeMille & Mr. Leiba, Jr.), reveals Ana’s lack of self-confidence, the key to her masochistic, self-effacing behavior with her friend, Katie and later with Christian Grey who overwhelms her at their first meeting. He sings “Who’s In Charge,” making it clear who is boss, followed by the boastful “The Very Model of a Man.” Under the guidance of her Inner Goddess—and judiciously applied depilation products—Ana makes herself over, preparing to become Christian’s sex slave (“Behold!), to the consternation of a jealous Kate. Christian makes her sign a contract which outlines virtually every sexual act she must perform, many of which are hilariously simulated by this very buff cast of four. (There is, however, no nudity.) “Lip Service” is a double entendre for oral sex. The libretto abounds in double entendres and, for that matter, single ones, too. Christian has a habit of spouting dirty words at inappropriate moments within his conversation, a mild form of Tourette’s Syndrome. The cast comes together, so to speak, in the proudly confessional “50 Shades of F****D Up.”
The cast are all on the same wave length, thanks to Ms. Brouk. They are all lovely to look at, great singers and move with all the necessary “oomph.” Their simple costumes—a business suit, sexy underwear, simple dresses, kimonos, etc.—also designed by the prolific Ms. Brouk, help define the characters with clarity. Mr. Sotomayor, himself, conducts the tiny ensemble (Zach Orts, sharing piano duties and Hiroyuki Matsuura on drums) with great enthusiasm.
In addition to hosting this show, Sophie’s Broadway offers food and drink served by a staff as good-looking as the cast!
50 Shades of F****d Up (through June 7th, 2014)
318 West 53rd St. (between 8th & 9th Aves.)
New York, NY
Tickets and Information: 866-811-4111 or www.50shadesfdup.com
Running Time: 80 minutes