SPOTLIGHT ON SPRING ARTS: Romantic novel parody comes to Atlanta

Special Photo "Spank!," a parody of "The Fifty Shades of Grey," hits stage at the Buckhead Theatre May 14-19.

Special Photo "Spank!," a parody of "The Fifty Shades of Grey," hits stage at the Buckhead Theatre May 14-19.


• What: “Spank! The Fifty Shades Parody”

• When: May 14-19, times vary

• Where: The Buckhead Theatre, 3110 Roswell Road, Atlanta

• Cost: $30 to $40

• For more information: Visit www.thebuckheadtheatre.com

ATLANTA -- In 2011, British author E. L. James introduced the world to a modern-day erotic romance novel with her book "Fifty Shades of Grey."

Nowadays, readers can experience a different version of the story: the comedic play "Spank! The Fifty Shades Parody." There are some references to the book, other references to pop culture and plenty of fresh parts in the script, which was written and directed by Jim Millan, whose credits include "The Kids in the Hall," "Larry King Standing Up" and "Mythbusters Live."

Gabe Bowling, who plays leading man Hugh Hanson, had never read the book before auditioning for the show.

"Well, I have now -- but not beforehand," he said with a laugh. "I was really not familiar with the story. It hadn't come across my radar in a very big way. Generally speaking, myself and my friends weren't sitting around talking about that book."

When his agent threw the script his way, Bowling wasn't expecting much from it -- until he read the comedy.

"I wasn't going to do theater anymore -- I was working on more film and television, but I read the script and thought I could make an exception for this one," he said. "It was hilarious."

The play focuses around three actors (Bowling as Hanson, Suzanne Sole as E.B. Janet and Danielle Trzcinski as Tasha Woode) performing on a bare stage with recorded music for the handful of musical numbers.

The show starts with E.B. Janet, whose husband and children are out for the weekend, drinking wine and writing a romance novel. In front of the audience, her characters come to life and start acting out scenes from her sex-filled story.

"We have to keep (the story) vague because the content ... we have to tap dance around the content," Bowling said about the "R"-rated plot. "We taking the audience on a journey, talking directly to the audience. (Janet) creates the characters before your eyes and put us into a humorous situations."

Hanson is based off of the Christian Grey character in the book, who is a billionaire that began a successful start-up company at a young age. Since he has the world at his fingertips, he finds normal life a bit boring and he begins to find adventure -- in other avenues.

That's where Woode comes into the play, as the naive heroine.

They two shop around in the hardware store and explore other things -- sort of like in the book -- but the cast has fun with the story.

"It has a skit comedy, 'SNL' feel to it," Bowling said. "There is improv in the show, built in for some times. We will stray from the script a little bit."

"Spank!" may sound like a "chick flick" on stage, but Bowling claims everyone will enjoy the jokes and inappropriate situations.

"There is no denying that this show is a good girls night out," he said. "The large demographic women in a certain age range who have read 'Fifty Shades.' The first time I saw it was in Chicago. I didn't understand the (book's) references and I still thought it was hilarious. You don't have to read the book or be a female to enjoy it. Trust me."

If you get to the theater early, you can try specialty "Spank!" cocktails. Stay after the show to meet and greet Bowling, plus take a photo with him. The preshow cocktail and meeting are not available for every performance. Check with the Buckhead Theatre box office about the additional details.

This is show is not recommended for young audiences due to sexual content. "Spank!" is not associated with, nor authorized by, author E.L. James or Vintage Press.

"Spank!" runs May 14-19.