I can see it now. A woman in handcuffs belting about the trials and tribulations of love, as her lover-to-be blindfolds her and gets out his whip. Then, perhaps, a lovely contrapuntal ballad in which the two express their desire for each other while harkening back to their mutually unhappy childhoods. And finally, an alternately airy and driving tenor showstopper from the man about unexpected fulfillment in the strangest of places and the oddest of ways. Ladies and gentlemen: Spank! Or, 50 Shades of Grey: The Musical.
There’s a long history of musicals which are based on books, beginning way back with half of Oscar and Hammerstein’s oeuvre. It makes sense of course: musicals can express emotions, pining and thoughts in the way simple spoken text can’t. What better way to adapt a book (and all it’s intertextuality) than by turning it into a musical? A movie will give the audience the over-layers, but a musical will turn all of that subtext into sublime sung-text.
Of course, there’s a certain amount of financial consideration going into producing a musical version of an international bestseller. I could again launch into an analysis about the dialectic of art for art v.s art for fiscal return, but I won’t. Because, ultimately, I think that Spank! could be a thoroughly exciting musical. After all, most of the great musicals involve some kind of camp, and what’s campier than a trashy erotic novel geared to middle aged housewives?
Spank! brings to mind the most recent Broadway hit Silence: The Musical, a musical adaptation of Silence of the Lambs which is equal parts frightening narrative and delightful spoof. 50 Shades of Grey seems to live in that same territory – yes, the narrative will still be there for fans, but I have little doubt so will moments of hilarious irreverence and parody.
In short, I can’t wait to see how Spank! fares in Chicago, and who its audiences will be. As we move towards a consumerist approach to cross-genre pollination, what other hits will be musicalized? Will Darren Criss eventually bring his Harry Potter musical to Broadway? While I can’t say any part of me wants to see a sung version of Twilight, I can probably guarantee I’ll front of the line when Katniss Everdeen (portrayed if there’s anything right with the world by Sutton Foster) gets up to belt “A Tribute’s Tale.”
What are your thoughts on Spank!? What other bestsellers would you like to see turned into musical theatre?