Hopefully, you like dirty jokes. “50 Shades! The Parody” at Bally’s Las Vegas Hotel and Casino 2019, is an irreverent comedy of the raunchiest sort.
If “50 Shades of Grey” is your favorite novel, brace yourself to see it sent up without mercy. If you have been living on a desert island since 2011 and this is the first you have heard of the smut-lit phenomenon by professional pseudonym E.L. James, some of the show’s zingers may zing right over your head.
Maybe, however, you read the book under protest for water-cooler gossip. Perhaps you were dragged to the movie by your significant other. Perchance you just appreciate the irony that a critically-panned book caught lightning in a bottle at the intersection of “Twilight” fanfic and bored housewives discovering there was such a thing as BDSM, and rode that lightning to 125 million book sales. If so, this could be the show for you.
Staged in a tiny theater with assertive cocktail service, this show is shamelessly low-budget. The chintzy costumes and sets reflect the flimsiness of the source material, but keep that in mind as you shell out $50 or more for a seat.
There’s a brilliantly plausible framing story – a book club consisting of three of the aforementioned housewives has selected “50 Shades” as its next read. These three conservatively-dressed biddies steal the show, mining comedy gold from their scandalized banter over descriptions of sex acts, whips, and leather handcuffs.
As they read, the story comes to life in action and song, with intentionally miscast actors taking on the roles of billionaire perv Christian Grey and impressionable co-ed Anastasia Steele. (How can anyone hear those overwrought character names and not burst out laughing?) Dashing Christian is embodied by an overweight slob; virginal Ana is mousy and completely clueless.
While the producers skimped on scenery and costumes, they went for broke on talent. The performers are pros – impeccable comic timing, top-notch singing voices, and a tongue-in-cheek appreciation of what show they’re in. Parody is the art of shining light on how ridiculous the subject matter is. “50 Shades!” has a big fat target to shine said light on, and to its credit, it hits the mark again and again. Joke after joke lands on how unconscionably screwed up the story is, throwing the lurid particulars up against Broadway gaiety to zany effect.
Naturally, this is rich material for toilet humor, pratfalls, and other lowbrow antics. “50 Shades!” delivers in that department as well. It probably goes without saying, but leave the kids in Hotel daycare. Maybe leave grandma there as well.
Where “50 Shades!” really shines, though, is in the razor-sharp satire – of the source story, the anomaly of the book’s success, and the low bar of sexual transgression that drove book sales into the stratosphere.
The small auditorium and stage make for an, ahem, intimate experience, but be prepared for uncomfortable plastic chairs if you don’t spring for a reserved table. (Don’t worry, the show is only 69 minutes long. See what they did there?) Seating is also open and the auditorium is not sloped, so you could be out of luck if someone tall sits in front of you. Reserved tables get pristine sight lines, but you may also get singled out by the cast for crowd interaction. The tables are not for the shy or easily offended.
Verdict: For all you culturally aware comedy lovers who don’t mind below-the-belt humor, “Fifty Shades! The Parody” at Bally’s Hotel and Casino, 2018, could be just the spank on the butt that your Vegas trip needs. Down a few cocktails, and treat your Inner Goddess to some well-deserved belly laughs.