In “Fifty Shades of Grey,” the 2011 erotic novel read by millions, Anastasia Steele tries to find happiness with Christian Grey, a billionaire with a fondness for paddling.
In the touring “50 Shades! The Musical,” at Warner Theatre this weekend, Ana does all that while singing songs such as “How Much Can I Take?” and the earnestly delivered, double-entendre-laden “There’s a Hole Inside of Me.” (Example lyric: “I’ve got sugar and tea, but no cream in my cup.”)
While Ana (Eileen Patterson) is at the center of the book, the show spends equal time on the “Book Club Ladies.” The three serve as a Greek chorus for Ana’s story; in the real world, they learn about themselves as their discussions suddenly involve toys that aren’t for kids and knots they don’t teach in the Boy Scouts.
There’s Pam (Tiffany Dissette), who is “definitely the most sexually charged of the three,” Dissette says. It’s Pam’s idea to read “Fifty Shades” in book club. Bev (Alexis Field, who says her character is “looking for a little spice in her love life”) and Carol (Sheila O’Connor) round out the trio.
As the ladies read about Ana’s adventures, it’s up to Patterson and Jack Boice, as Christian, to provide the action.
“Ana is so naive and so innocent,” Patterson says. “I take that to the extreme, so she’s like a parody of a Disney princess.” (Patterson played Cinderella and Rapunzel on a Disney cruise line, so she has some experience.) Eventually, Ana discovers that a little hot candle wax is a small price to pay for the man she loves. It’s a fairy tale come true!
Musicals are already unreal, since people rarely burst into song no matter how in love they are. Adding parody slaps on another layer. The trick, the cast agrees, is to take it all seriously.
“Comedy doesn’t come from the actors being like, ‘Watch me! I’m funny!’ ” Dissette says. “Funny comes from the actors going ‘Watch me, I’m being completely serious doing this completely stupid thing.’ ”
The “stupid things” often involve writhing or cheesy dancing or both, but O’Connor thinks that the show can offer something more than laughs and a little titillation. (The sex isn’t explicit and the nudity only suggested.)
“We talk about how nice it must be for the women who see the show to have a wonderful way to start a conversation” about sex, O’Connor says. “They bring their boyfriends or their husbands and, when they laugh about it, it’s easier to talk about.”
Warner Theatre, 513 13th St. NW; Thu.-Sat., $32.50-$52.50; 202-783-4000. (Metro Center)