‘Fifty Shades’ Movie Keeps Audiences Panting for Stage Parodies

It’s not just superfans eager to throng tonight’s opening-night screenings of Focus Features’ “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Also planning to attend: the cast and creative team of “50 Shades! The Musical Parody,” looking to raid the film for potentially iconic moments — Think the Winslet-DiCaprio “I’m flying” clinch in  “Titanic” — that they can skewer.

The musical (pictured above) has already incorporated that Beyonce cover and posted their own parody of the movie’s Super Bowl trailer (below), riding the wave of movie hype that has kept “50 Shades!” running for a year Off Broadway, as well as sustaining business on the road for the three separate, small-scale stage parodies now on tour: “Cuff Me: The ’50 Shades of Grey’ Unauthorized Musical Parody,'” “Spank! The ’50 Shades’ Parody” and “50 Shades!”

“50 Shades!” alone has been seen in Italian, French, Spanish, Dutch and German versions, and director Al Samuels is currently helming a production at the Bally’s Las Vegas. Brazil, Mexico and Malta are among the territories the show will hit next.

Samuels said that in the U.S., “Strangely, the show does insanely well in the South. Houston was bananas.”

Back when “Cuff Me,” “Spank” and “50 Shades!” were kicking into gear in spring 2013, the wait until Valentine’s Day weekend of 2015 — the release date the “Fifty Shades” movie would eventually announce — must have seemed downright sadistic.

It wasn’t clear, after all, just how long the frenzy of “Fifty Shades” fandom would endure without a movie version to stoke the flames. Like “50 Shades!,” “Cuff Me” also gave Off Broadway a try, but ran only about three months.

“50 Shades!,” on the other hand, played its first Off Broadway performance in February 2014 and has kept going thanks in part to a cannily upfront title that includes all three relevant phrases — “50 Shades,” “musical” and “parody” — sans subtitle.

The ongoing trickle of movie hype has helped, too. Producer Andrew Asnes said the Off Broadway production started logging profitable weeks in August, and the production didn’t experience the usual post-holiday sales slump in January thanks to the film’s marketing push.

Since they’re plainly billed as parodies, none of the “Fifty Shades” stage spoofs have faced any legal wrath from publisher or studio. “50 Shades!” is even allowed to sell movie merchandise at its merch stand, where other items on offer include the cast recording of the show’s original songs and — the bestselling item — a lipstick vibrator.

In the days before the movie’s release, “50 Shades!” announced it would extend at least through Labor Day, with the production anticipating sales boosts not only from the movie release but from the subsequent spring/summer tourism tide that buoys New York’s theater box offices every year.

Could “50 Shades!” run longer? Sure, why not. With the movie poised to have the Valentine’s Day weekend box office all tied up, there are bound to be sequels.

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