Titillating but not Uncomfortable: it’s SPANK: The Fifty Shades of Grey Parody

SPANK: The Fifty Shades of Grey Parody plays at the Wilbur Theatre, May 30 to June 1, 2013. I spoke with cast member Michelle Vezilj about the show just after the Boston Marathon bombings.

Michelle: I’m so really sorry to hear about the events in Boston. I have a lot of friends in Boston; I’ve been texting and calling everyone just making sure everyone’s ok. The cast and crew are thinking about you guys.

Events INSIDER: Bostonians are pretty tough people – they’ll bounce back quickly. The idea of terrorism is to basically traumatize society and stop you from going to work. We’re going to keep working and then we’ll be fine.

Michelle: Yeah, that’s Americans in general, we just keep going.

Events INSIDER: I understand that Fifty Shades of Grey is a book for 40-plus women who are titillated by bondage, and it’s such a weird clash with the sterotypical housewife that SPANK! is a natural parody.

Michelle: That’s a great summary. Most of our audience is 40 to 50 and they come very dressed up. A lot of them have been drinking. It’s a night out, a celebration. All these women, they all come together. It’s wonderful. It’s so much so fun to perform.

Events INSIDER: So, can I headline this: “Actress says: Drink before you come to our show”?

Michelle: *laughs* I think that’s part of the experience. A lot of parties come, and bachelorette parties. The material itself is does not need to be watched while drinking but it’s definitely one of those shows that it’s just really fun. It’s a really fun experience.

Events INSIDER: It’s a bit raunchy.

Michelle: Yea, there are bits of it that are raunchy, but we don’t make anyone uncomfortable. There’s no full nudity. We want everyone to have a great experience, we don’t want someone to look up the stage and say “OMG what am I watching”. It’s something that you know a lot of women can come and just have fun and have a night out away from the kids and the husband. I think it’s a better idea to bring the husband along because at the end of the night, you know, they get their happy ending.

Events INSIDER: Maybe he’ll learn something about what she wants!

Michelle: Yeah! Maybe! I think that this book is a great sexual exploration. I think nowadays people are becoming more sexually open and so this book plays on that… I don’t think a lot of women are in need of S&M but it’s more that they´re being more open about sex and what they want. And I think that this book, it’s a love story between a virgin and a billionaire, an unlikely match, and then you watch the relationship develop and our show follows the book pretty closely. So a lot of the fans of the book are extremely happy with the parody. We don’t want to make fun of the writing. We want you to just have fun with the people who have read it, and then we fill in a lot of pop culture references for the people who have not read it. But it’s still a fun experience for people who know nothing about the book.

Events INSIDER: You said there is no full nudity. Is there partial nudity? What’s the deal?

Michelle: Ah yes. There is, you know.

Events INSIDER: Are there boobs? That’s what I’m asking.

Michelle: *laughs* No. No no no. I get partially but it’s not — no. *laughs*

Events INSIDER: So you dress skimpy but there’s no actual nudity in it.

Michelle: No, no, no. The Christian Grey character, on the first act he does a strip tease for the ladies. Which is very fun, gets the audience going. But there’s no full nudity and of course this is a parody so while it’s still really fun to watch, there are parts of that strip tease that are hilarious. It’s something; you know – it’s just very fun and very funny.

Events INSIDER: If you don’t mind my asking, are you a feminist? Are you open about sexuality?

Michelle: I’m a dramatic actress and that’s where I find my home. This show is a comedy and I’ve never done a comedy before and so it was an amazing experience of learning how to be funny, believing that I’m funny on stage. This is a musical parody… a cool experience where I’m on stage for 2 hours just making the audience laugh. I also go into the audience and I improv with them… It’s just a lot of my training from school… I’m extremely open about my body and sexual exploration… I think my generation is open with that, so [the show gets people in] the 40s and 50s to feel more open and to talk to their husbands about what they want. It’s popular with the 40s and 50s because they may not have had that experience when they were younger… The book is about sex, but we don’t just focus on that part. A lot of the show is growing into the relationship between these two people because I think that’s a lot of what these women want. They just don’t want the sex. They want the love and the romance and the love romance story, you know.

Events INSIDER: So you actually get off the stage and talk with the audience… is that part of a pre-show?

Michelle: There are two points in the show that I go into the audience and I talk to them. I don’t want to give anything away, but those are some of my favorite moments of the show because the audience it what makes it funny. It’s their the energy that creates the show… So when I get to go and talk to them and feel their energy, things just happen… I go up to someone like they’re a doctor and I need sexual advice. So that is a lot of fun.

Events INSIDER: Is the show meant to be titillating, burlesque as well as comedy?

Michelle: We talk about S&M, especially during songs, in funny ways. We talk of these things in a way that won’t make people uncomfortable. We have a couple of parody songs. We talk about spanking and whips, that kind of things It’s just not a major part of our story… the major part of the story is the adventure of Anastasia and Christian.

Events INSIDER: Great! Is there anything I forgot to ask or that you’d like to add in the end?

Michelle: It’s a night out, to have fun and they get to take pictures with us afterwards. It’s something that should not be missed. I think that a lot of women should get together in groups and just come out and have fun.

SPANK: The Fifty Shades of Grey runs May 30 to June 1, 2013. For more about the show, see www.thewilburtheatre.com.