March 12, 2016
"Fifty Shades of Grey" by E.L. James had been criticized for its embarrassing writing style from the time it hit the bookstores. Yet all of those negative criticisms did not prevent it from being a huge bestseller especially among bored housewives of the whole world. The 2015 film version was also much maligned for its further mangling of the already English-mangling book. It was no surprise that parodies of this book popped up in all forms of media in response of its hilariously contrived story and lines. In the past five years there had been three such stage parodies that were spawned. One of them is here right now.
Three ladies, Pam, Bev and Carol were having their book club meeting. Pam suggests “50 Shades of Grey”, and the three enter the world of dorky college virgin Anastasia Steele and her sexually quirky, contract-wielding beau Christian Grey. Of course, being a parody, the script by director Al Samuels picked out all the unintentionally funny parts of the book and blows them up in full LOL effect with blatantly raunchy songs and racy choreography. Theater fans will enjoy the references to "Phantom of the Opera" and "Les Miserables." Assistant director Robbie Guevara of 9Works augmented the script with some witty Filipino pop references (so funny when delivered by the American cast).
Karel Marquez was a perfect casting choice as Anastasia. Her pretty face and expressive eyes exuded genuine innocence. Her clear Disneyesque voice managed to make her double-entendre filled song of yearning "There is a Hole Inside of Me" actually sound inspirational despite the very naughty lyrics. Those fans who recall her as Gabriella on "High School Musical" or Belle in "Beauty and the Beast" need not worry as this Anastasia does keep most of her clothes on. (US stage actress Brenna Wahl alternates in this role.)
The big "surprise" of this parody will be the way they portray Christian Grey. When I saw that Lorenz Martinez was going to play Grey, I cannot imagine how it would be. Seeing this actor in films like "Heneral Luna" and serious musicals like "Lorenzo Ruiz" and "Secret Garden," I felt Martinez did not exactly fit the book description of how Grey was supposed to look like. From his first scene though, you'd totally get the seeming casting anomaly and how it was comedy gold. His solo number "I Don't Make Love" is practically X-rated, not only because of profanity it contains and perversion it celebrates, but also for that shameless torso-baring red singlet he wore throughout that number. (American alternate Greg Kata played Grey in the Las Vegas version so it also should be interesting to see his attack on the role.)
Bituin Escalante is as scene-stealing as ever because of her strong stage presence and stronger vocal chops. Good thing she had that one spot solo in one of the ensemble song numbers and she makes those few minutes some of the most memorable in the whole show. As the depressed and repressed housewife Carol, Escalante would delight us with her comic antics, especially when Carol "blooms" towards the end, aggressively engaging a young guy from the audience.
Tall, statuesque Chloe Williamson plays Pam. She surprised the unexpecting audience when she rips out her Idina Menzel-like vocal calisthenics in Act 2 when she leads the singing of the show's main theme song "50 Shades." Kaitlyn Frotton gets to play two characters, housewife Bev and Anastasia's slutty roommate Katherine. She is game and funny, especially in that wild side scene with fellow cast member Chris Hodgson and one audience member from the front row.
When you see him onstage, you'd think George Schulze, who plays Anastasia's flamboyant admirer Jose, was one of the foreign cast because of his looks. However, this guy is actually Filipino, and had been a professional stage actor since 2008. Admittedly, I had only noted him once before in "A Horse and His Boy" where he had a very minor role. His turn as Jose gave Schulze a much bigger opportunity to display his flair for comedy and singing.
Chris Hodgson, Isaac Saleh and Casey Rogers played the minor side characters, as well as helped moved the furniture and various set pieces on stage. However, they are really eye-catching mainly because of their barely-there costumes. In fact, in most posters and promo pictures of the show you see them (and their chests and abs) to catch the audience's attention, and not really the main actors.
The nature of this show is not a secret. This show is about sexual deviancy so expect it to be frank and graphic about it. This is definitely not for closed-minded, ultra-conservative prudes. Yes, some cheesy jokes and suggestive song lyrics may make you groan. It is a parody after all, so do not expect high-brow stuff. For the most part though, the humor is surprisingly good-natured and light-hearted. The actors were all engaging and genuinely having fun and this was infectious. For people who are open about these adult themes as well as vulgar, risque comedy, this can be fun show to watch and enjoy.
"50 Shades! The Musical Parody" was only supposed to run from February 12 -28, 2016. However, because of audience demand, it had continue to run in March, and will continue to show up to next weekend: March 18 (8 pm), March 19 (5 pm and 8 pm) and March 20 (Palm Sunday, 3 shows 2 pm, 5 pm and 8 pm.). Show venue is at the Carlos P. Romulo Theater at the RCBC Plaza in Makati. Show is Rated R-18.
TicketS via Ticketworld. Prices: VIP FRONT ROW: Php 5,000.00, VIP: Php 4,500.00, ORCHESTRA CENTER: Php 4,000.00, ORCHESTRA SIDES: Php 3,500.00, LOGE: Php 2,500.00, BALCONY: Php 1,500.00.