IF YOU GO
What: Parody of "Fifty Shades of Grey" with original score and songs
When: 8 p.m. Friday, May 10
Where: Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall, 13350 Edison Parkway, Fort Myers
Cost: $27, $32, $37, $42
Information: Call 481-4849 or go to bbmannpah.com
Something Else: Recommended for audiences 18+; mature themes with sexuality and BDSM. Contains profanity and some sexual innuendo.
On the Web: More theater news at The Stage Door blog
8099 College Parkway, Fort Myers, FL
Spencer Rose promises one thing to audiences flocking to see "50 Shades! The Musical" on tour through the United States.
"You're going to laugh your face off," the actress crowed from a hotel room in Atlanta late on a Friday afternoon. "50 Shades! The Musical" plays Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall in Fort Myers at 8 p.m. May 10. Tickets are $27-$42.
Rose and another two dozen or so cast and crew members had just hit Hotlanta after a day-long bus ride from Stuart, Fla. Friday was a travel day, which meant ride, sleep and then up Saturday morning, ride and perform two shows at Knoxville's Bijou Theater that night. I caught the actress in her room, but the pool and perhaps an adult beverage beckoned.
Rose plays Pam, one of a trio of book club ladies who decide to read "Fifty Shades of Grey," the 2011 novel from British author E. L. James. As the women work their way through the erotic romance - and its scenes of bondage, domination and rough sex - the audience gets taken along for a thrill ride.
"It's a little sexy, a little raunchy," Rose laughs. "But not too raunchy!"
"50 Shades! The Musical" features an original score and original songs. Rose got the job, rehearsed for a week and was off on the road.
Despite the book's reputation as a potent cure-all for bored housewives seeking spice for the bedroom, the show never goes too far over the top. "50 Shades! The Musical" aims for an 18-and-over audience and includes profanity and some sexual innuendo - but nixes the nudity.
No prior experience - of any kind! - is needed to enjoy the show. Rose believes the book club ladies (They "represent the audience members.") help guide crowds through the night - whether they've read the books or not. Nobody needs to be familiar with Christian and Anastasia to follow the plot.
The cast remains split on the quality of James's prose, but the show never attacks the material. Instead, the parody "makes fun of it in a loving way," Rose says.
"We make light of the fact that people have different opinions [of the show]," the actress explains. "We get an incredible response from the men who come to see the show, for example. Most of them say 'I was not expecting it!'"
At its heart, "50 Shades! The Musical" boils down to classic musical comedy, albeit one with handcuffs and some light bondage on the side.
"As cheesy as it sounds, it really is a love story," Rose said. "Boy meets girl. Conflict. It is easy for people to follow."
The actress calls the show "incredible," and notes that she "could have been doing a lot of other things" if she hadn't landed the part.
"You could always be in the background of a musical waving a tree as chorus girl number two," Rose said, "but this is such a thrill. This show is such a fun experience!"
And for the timid, note that the show does have just a smidge of audience participation. I was asked not to spoil the surprises, but Rose offered a few hints.
"We can always tell how packed the bar is at intermission," the actress related in a conspiratorial tone. "We can tell when they hit the bar hard and come back ready for us. Then, it always gets exciting!"