It was only a matter of time, but this was really fast.
In September, Canadian theater and comedy producer/writer Jim Millan was brainstorming with a producer friend, who asked, "What's the biggest thing in pop culture right now?"
The answer came quickly. "Fifty Shades of Grey," the series of E.L. James "mommy porn" novels about a virginal college girl and her not-so-traditional relationship with a handsome, sexy millionaire businessman. The first, released in spring 2011, sparked a cult following, and two more followed. More than 65 million novels have reportedly been sold and a movie is in the works.
And now we have "Spank! The Fifty Shades Parody," a musical comedy stage show selling out theaters in Canada and the U.S.
"We wrote it in August and September and were getting standing ovations in October," says Mr. Millan, who worked with several writers and serves as director.
As this is a parody, and, not surprisingly, unauthorized, there's no Anastasia Steele or Christian Grey in the cast. Instead, you'll meet Tasha Woode and Hugh Hanson. And right on stage with them will be writer E.B. Janet.
The storyline is that a woman who is not a professional writer -- just like E.L. James -- sets out to write an erotic fantasy. As she writes, the steamy action unfolds, complete with handcuffs, silk ties, a leather whip and other assorted sexual aids. The writer also plays all the extra characters.
It's an almost burlesque-style show, with musical numbers, improvisation and some audience interaction. Think Second City comedy, a style Mr. Millan knows well from his work with the Canadian "The Kids in the Hall" sketch comedy troupe.
"The spirit of the show is very improvisational. The writer talks to the audience directly. We're all in this room, and the story is happening together," he says.
Mr. Millan won't give many dirty details -- "It never does me any good to kill my own laughs," he says. But according to reviews, the story follows the "Fifty Shades" storyline pretty closely. Reviews mention a few musical numbers including Enrique Iglesias' "Hero," with words changed to lyrics about wilder sexual acts, and a twist on "I Know Things Now," Little Red Riding Hood's song from the Stephen Sondheim musical "Into the Woods."
Mr. Millan will say that scenes include the famous Red Room of bondage and a hovercraft, a substitute for Christian's private jet. He also says there are various stages of undress -- "near nakedness" -- but no full-on nudity. As far as the language, Mr. Millan says "we try not be vulgar. We try to be clever rather than overt."
He promises naughty laugh after naughty laugh through the 90-minute show, not including intermission.
"People who read the book and loved the book laugh really hard at our show," says Mr. Millan. But, he says, people who don't know the book will enjoy it, too. "With its rom-com formula, you understand it. It's not Shakespeare. The husbands come along. It always works out well for them, that's all I'll say."
"Spank!" has been such a success, there are now two touring companies; a tour in Australia ready to roll; a deal signed for a tour of England, the home country of "Fifty Shades"; and a permanent production scheduled to open in May at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas.
"No matter what's going on in your day, this is going to put a grin on your face that's hard to wipe off," Mr. Millan says.theater