New York City: the musical theatre capital of New York State. It is said that if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. Having already made it in New York City with a successful, sold out run off Broadway, the producers of Cuff Me: The Fifty Shades of Grey Musical Parody are bringing the hit show to The Norva this weekend.
The musical--written by Bradford McMurran and Sean Devereux of The Pushers as well as noted local theatre dude, Jeremiah Albers--will have three shows this weekend. There will be two chances to see it this Saturday, May 25 at 5 and 8pm, and another chance Sunday, May 26 at 3pm.
As a well-known musical theatre aficionado (I saw Cats once), I made the trip to New York in March to check out the opening night preview. The hotel room we were staying in was uncomfortably small for accomodating four people. There was no fan in the bathroom. I had arrived with a box of wine, a bottle of Fireball and enough money to encourage bad decision-making throughout the two-night stay.
It was March 27, and I was in an unfamiliar city, nursing a brutally unforgiving hangover; the type of hangover you wonder if you’ll ever recover from. All I wanted to do at this point was watch Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, and die (in that order). Unfortunately, I had tickets to Cuff Me: The Fifty Shades of Grey Musical Parody, so I penciled in “watch Cuff Me” in between “watch Master and Commander” and “die.” Luckily, I managed to summon the inner strength to make it to The Actor's Temple and experience the majesty that is Cuff Me: The Fifty Shades of Grey Musical Parody.
Before I get to the actual review portion of this review, I'd like to explain to the reader my level of familiarity with the book Fifty Shades of Grey. Simply put, I am an expert. No, I haven't read the book (I’m holding out for the Classics Illustrated comic book adaptation), but I have read an in-depth online synopsis that explained it to me very well.
Fifty Shades of Grey is the completely serious story of an idiot's and a psychopath's love for one another. It was definitely written by a dude whose only form of social interaction came from AOL chat room conversations with other shut-ins about the mysteries of sex. A quick Google search tells me E.L. James is actually a woman, but ever since I found out The Blair Witch Project wasn’t a documentary shot in real time, I’ve refused to believe anything I see.
Now, onto the show.
The show does a nice job of both acknowledging the cultural impact of Fifty Shades of Grey while at the same time poking fun at it. The trickiness of parodying something that is already inherently ridiculous was handled well here in the choice to heighten and one-up the craziness in the book. Several times during the play, the actors presented something directly from the book and then broke the fourth wall to tell the audience that what they are seeing is actually from the book.
The four actors in the show play multiple roles in an acting technique I'd first become aware of in Jean Claude Van Damme's Double Impact--except that they don't all play their own twin, so I guess that makes the acting in Cuff Me better than the acting in Double Impact. Also, the cast in Cuff Me pulls the singing and dancing numbers off very well, and Jean Claude Van Damme didn't even try to sing and dance in Double Impact.
Final score: Cuff Me: 2, Double Impact: 0.
(Side note to the producers of Cuff Me. I know you folks are getting ready to take this show on tour. If you’d like to use Cuff Me: it’s better than Double Impact on the posters as a tag line, you have my blessing.)
The musical selections all fit the onstage action perfectly and help to move the story along. As this is a musical parody, imagine if 2 Live Crew wrote songs for Beyoncé, Madonna and Britney Spears, and you’ll have a good idea of what to expect.
After seeing Cuff Me: The Fifty Shades of Grey Musical Parody, my hangover had left my body and I was once again in high spirits. Some may say that the passage of time had alleviated my pain, but I knew better. I knew that the power of musical theatre had once again given me the strength to spend the night drinking in a strange city. So thank you, Cuff Me. Thank you for helping me do the things I love to do.
James Roach is a founding member of Absolute Uncertainty Sketch and Improv. They have performed throughout the area and will be appearing at the 2nd Annual Norfolk Comedy Festival this July and at the Museum of Contemporary Art this August. Occasionally, James does standup comedy. For an in depth video review of Cuff Me: The Fifty Shades of Grey Musical Parody shot on location in New York, check out this video from Absolute Uncertainty: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10201084446570733.