OOH LA LA: (L to R) Sheila O'Connor, Caroline Reade, Tiffany Dissette, BJ Gruber, Alexis Field in '50 Shades! The Musical.' It is currently playing at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City. (Photo by Ed Krieger)

OOH LA LA: (L to R) Sheila O’Connor, Caroline Reade, Tiffany Dissette, BJ Gruber, Alexis Field in ’50 Shades! The Musical.’ It is currently playing at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City. (Photo by Ed Krieger)

“50 Shades! The Musical,” boasts a well-seasoned ensemble cast, live music, dancing, bare-chested men, phenomenal vocal talent, triple-X lyrics, a cast-against-type lead character, and the thinnest story I’ve ever seen.

I’ve never read the publishing phenomenon the “50 Shades of Grey” trilogy of novels that tell the story of a naïve college graduate and her extreme sexual relationship with a handsome, wealthy young businessman. The story celebrates domination and submission, bondage and punishment, and sadism and masochism.

So how do you translate that into a musical parody? If you’re a woman of a certain age (or a brave man), you’ll remember the level of titillation that the Chippendales’ club created, with whooping ladies getting the strip club treatment as half-naked male dancers performed bump-and-grind routines onstage for them. That’s what this feels like.

This play is not about subtlety. The setting is a book club, featuring three housewives, Bev (Glennis McCarthy), Carol (Sheila O’Connor) and Pam (Tiffany Dissette), in varying states of relationship crisis.

As the three women decide to read “50 Shades of Grey,” the story comes to life in the form of sparkly, innocent virgin Anastasia (Eileen Patterson) and rowdy Jack Boice, cast against type as a big-bellied, red-bearded Christian Grey, a tough sight to embrace in shorts and suspenders.

The cast has been together a long time and their comfort with one another and the material shows. But oh, the material! It’s a one-note silly romp through the many different ways to “do it” but definitely not in the usual range of positions. Perhaps if I’d read the book I might be more appreciative of the parody.

The play does a good job of pointing out the absurdity of a woman discovering her inner strength and freedom by allowing herself to be humiliated, but I admit to being grateful that each of the two acts was short (the program notes the show takes 69 minutes — get it?), because after just a few numbers, the entire thread wears thin, along with the slightly too-loud band and standard issue, unmemorable tunes.

But really, who am I to judge? The play’s been a monster hit everywhere it’s performed. If you’re up for raunchy guffaws generated by a naughty premise, then go see “50 Shades! The Musical” at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City. Find out more at http://50shadesthemusical.com/ or call (213) 628-2772.

 

A new kind of circus 

 

As Canada’s Cirque du Soleil leaves Santa Monica, the city prepares to welcome Australia’s celebrated Circa, a different kind of circus, theatrical, dance and multimedia performance troupe, hot off a phenomenally acclaimed world tour.

Rather than performing under a big tent, Circa brings its act to The Broad Stage with a breathless cocktail of acrobatics, dance, cabaret and an immersive use of sound, light and projection, for two performances only on Friday, March 14 and Saturday, March 15.

The company’s multi-talented performers reveal the outstanding strength and beautiful architecture of the human body in a risk-taking performance that London’s Guardian calls “breathtaking, beautiful, and sexy.”

The touring troupe is made up of seven young core members trained in circus arts who have been performing for years. Circa runs a training center and workshop program at its professional studio in Brisbane and partners with schools and affiliates throughout Australia.

Performances take place next week, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m.; more info and tickets at www.thebroadstage.com or the Box Office at (310) 434-3200.

 

Free music

 

The UCLA Music Library has paired with local concert producer Jacaranda: Music at the Edge at Schoenberg Hall for a free concert recognizing Jacaranda’s 10th anniversary.

Honoring the art form of the string quartet in a concert called “Continental Harmony,” Jacaranda’s resident Lyris Quartet performs 20th century American string quartet music spanning 80 years. Lyris makes its debut performance of the “String Quartet No. 2” by cutting edge composer Charles Ives, followed by a Jacaranda signature work from 1973, “String Quartet No. 4,” “Amazing Grace,” by Ben Johnston. “String Quartet No. 5” by Philip Glass (1991), a Lyris specialty, will be followed by “String Quartet No. 3” by film composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold, a first for the ensemble and a work that premiered at Royce Hall in 1946.

The concert is free but reservations are strongly recommended as seating is reaching capacity. To RSVP visit www.JacarandaMusic.org or call (213) 483-0216.

 

Santa Monica Airport Art Walk

 

The public is invited to explore open studios, see art and ceramic demonstrations, participate in art and theatre workshops, enjoy live music and food trucks in the Santa Monica Airport’s converted airplane hangars. The airport is an arts incubator, home to more than 60 artists and creative venues. Painting, sculpture, ceramics and mixed media will be represented and many artists sell work from their studios and offer refreshments.

Arena 1 Gallery features Alternate Realities, an exhibition of 14 contemporary photographic artists. Santa Monica College Ceramics presents throwing and raku firing demonstrations, and there’ll be a ceramic art project for kids. The Ruskin Theatre Group offers its Café Plays series and improv workshops for kids. The 10-piece brass band Carmen Pérez Memorial Marching Band provides music throughout the day.

The Museum of Flying will also be open and the airport’s Demonstration Gardens will offer tours of three different sustainable gardening designs including eco-friendly lawn alternatives, a vegetable garden, private sanctuary and outdoor room. The tours include tips on how to green gardens.

Activities, parking and bike valet are free and no reservations are needed. For more information visit www.smgov.net/airportartwalk.

 

 

Sarah A. Spitz is a former freelance arts producer for NPR and former staff producer at public radio station KCRW-Santa Monica. She has also reviewed theatre for LAOpeningNights.com.

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