Magazine article Variety

Shades of Green

Magazine article Variety

Shades of Green

Article excerpt

OF HUMAN BONDAGE

A trio of stage parodies of the E.L. James book are racing to cash in on the 'Grey' phenomenon

It's not just Hollywood that's hot for 50 Shades of Grey. The mom-porn phenom has the live-entertainment biz whipped into a lather too.

Three separate stage parodies of the BDSM tale are in varying stages of production in Gotham and on the road. The competition has propelled each into a race to tap audience enthusiasm before the other two can - and before the clock on the property's 15 minutes runs out.

We're not talking Broadway here. The language may be raunchy, but the budgets are all chastely modest, with shows capitalized at less than $500,000 each and falling into the small, Off Broadway-scaled niche where the tension between production costs and potential revenue make it tough to make a buck.

But producers of all three shows are betting the Shades fervor reps a real opportunity in a constricted market. It's a cultural touchstone that can sell by proxy, and in a producing model with little for ad budgets, that's a big advantage.

"(The title) pretty much determines how much a show this size will succeed," says Tim Flaherty, prexy of Entertainment Events, the company behind Cuff Me: The '50 Shades of Grey' Unauthorized Musical Parody.

There's also potential profit in the demographic overlap of 50 Shades fans and legit ticketbuyers. Just like on Broadway, sales for these smaller productions are most often purchased by women between 40 and 60 years old - the same women panting over Shades.

These ladies enjoy a girls' night. "This is a demo that likes to go out en masse, in groups," says Michael Mills, producer of Spank! The '50 Shades' Parody.

As spoofs, all three productions expect to be shielded from rights issues under the laws protecting parody and satire, free from the kind of legal action that Universal, producer of the upcoming 50 Shades bigscreen adaptation, has undertaken against a porn version of the story. (Universal and author E.L. James declined to comment on the live shows.)

The 50 Shades phenomenon took off early last year when a trilogy by James that began as Twilight fan fiction was published as an e-book by a small Australian publisher. As the books logged impressive e-sales, Random House nabbed rights. The 50 Shades trilogy has now shifted more than 65 million copies.

Producers of each of the Off Broadway hopefuls see the benefit in arriving first to market. But each can make its own claim to the title. …

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