News Column

REVIEW: 'SPANK!' makes sold-out Paramount audience cry with laughter

May 11, 2013


May 11--CEDAR RAPIDS -- A full house of (mostly) female fans yelped and screamed throughout "SPANK!" last night (5/10/13) at the Paramount Theatre.

They weren't in pain -- although some of the singing and writing was purposely painful. Instead, this "Fifty Shades of Grey" theatrical parody makes its audience writhe in laughter.

I see no Tony Awards in its future. It's more like a two-hour "Saturday Night Live" sketch with plenty of bumping, grinding and naughty bits, punctuated by pop songs with "new" trashy lyrics. "Tainted Love" is the perfect theme song for this show -- a bit of fan-fic based on the wildly popular fan-fic trilogy that swept pop culture off its feet last spring and summer.

The play follows the path of E.L. James' books, quickly dubbed "mommy porn," in which brainiac college virgin Anastasia Steele's educational path deviates when she trips and falls into the arms of Christian Grey, a debonair, dominating megamogul billionaire with an appetite for S&M whips and chains.

As with many parodies, the stage version isn't endorsed by James or her publishing company, so the names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent. The play's onstage writer is E.B. Janet and the characters she creates are Tasha Woode and Hugh Hanson. Same basic plot, same grey silk necktie binding the lovers in knot after naughty knot.

Anne Marie Scheffler is hilarious as author Janet, a bored housewife determined to make the most of her weekend free of her husband and kids, kicking back and cranking out a sex fantasy trilogy. What could be so hard about that? Apparently, singing and dancing. Janet isn't good at either, but I suspect the highly trained actress with an extensive comedy resume was trying to be bad, in which case, she was good, if not great. Especially hilarious were the moments following the steamy scenes, in which she batted her eyes with wide-eye innocence and simply said, "You're welcome."

Gabe Bowling was a hunka hunka burning love, dressed and undressed, gyrating through Hanson's 50 shades of shadowy grey, blurring the lines of bad-boy goodness, kindling Woode's fire. Danielle Trzcinski is his match as Tasha, adding spunky spark to their burning fires of passion.

The dialogue is as awful as in the books, which is no easy feat. It's hard to write badly, unless you're a bad writer to begin with -- then it's easy. This is hard.

Anyway, back to the story. Boy opens door, girl falls into his arms, he shows up at the hardware store where she works, buys some rope and duct tape, asks her out, ties her up, binding her heart and her hands as time goes on. They navigate his jet-set lifestyle in helicopters, hovercrafts, jetpacks and hang gliders, landing time and again in his Red Room of Pain.

It ain't Shakespeare, but the Bard was bawdy in his own right, it's just that he really could write, right?

"SPANK!" is trashy, flashy fun -- two hours of escapism embraced by a mostly young audience ready to cut loose in best bachelorette party fashion. Even my inner goddess was ready for a cigarette at intermission, and I don't smoke. This show does.

Miss it last night or desiring more tonight? It's playing three times this weekend in Dubuque. Laters, baby.


What: "SPANK! The Fifty Shades Parody"

When: 4 and 7 p.m. Saturday (5/11) and 2 p.m. Sunday (5/12)

Where: Mississippi Moon Bar, Diamond Jo Casino, 301 Bell St., Dubuque:

Tickets: $29.75 to $39.75, (563) 690-4758 or

Show website:


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